Coverage appeared in the Star-Ledger August 29, 2013. AFSC-IRP was involved in both rallies – the first held at Lincoln Park and the second at the Lincoln statue at the historic Essex County Courthouse.
NEWARK — About the same time as thousands of people in nearly every state were commemorating Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I have a dream" speech, about 100 community advocates and labor union members were marking the 50th anniversary with a rally in Newark's Lincoln Park.
Through a steady rain, speakers at the Newark gathering called for an increase in the state's minimum wage — from $7.25 to $8.25 — along with immigration reform, and other issues they classified as civil rights.
"Dr. King had a dream and we still have that dream today," said Kevin Brown, state director of Local 32BJ of the Service Employees International Union, which organized the rally. "Some things have improved but we still have a long way to go."
Speakers included Milly Silva, SEIU Local 1199's executive vice president for New Jersey and Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor, and two of Newark's mayoral candidates — South Ward Councilman Ras Baraka and Central Ward Councilman Darrin Sharif.
Silva told the crowd how Local 1199 collected enough money 50 years ago to send 1,000 members to the March on Washington. This year, about 3,000 members traveled to Washington on Saturday, when the anniversary was celebrated with a full day of events there.
"This is about the proud tradition we have as a union," she said, looking over a crowd holding union signs, and clad in purple and yellow ponchos, Local 1199's colors. "We have always stood for economic justice and social justice and the continuation of the civil rights struggle led by Dr. King."
The Newark event, like many throughout the country, was in sync with the hour when King gave his speech, 3 p.m., Eastern time.
As King was wrapping up his speech at the Lincoln Memorial, he quoted from the patriotic song, "My Country 'tis of Thee."
King implored his audience to "let freedom ring" from the hilltops and mountains of every state in the nation, some of which he named.
"When we allow freedom to ring — when we let it ring from every city and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, 'Free at last, free at last, great God almighty, we are free at last," King said.
By Barry Carter/Star-Ledger