"We live in a community accepting of each other and no one fought harder than Martin Luther King to attain that," said Union City mayor and N.J. state senator, Brian Stack.
"We practice his life and his life's works everyday despite where we come from and the color of our skin," said Mayor Stack.
These words came on Jan. 18, as Union City officials celebrated Martin Luther King Day last Monday. The celebration noted the 40th anniversary of Dr. King's death.
In light of the holiday, Mayor Stack and the Board of Commissioners hosted a ceremony in which local priest Father Paco Legarra delivered a speech honoring King and students from Union Hill High School's Chorus and History club attended.
Also, King's most famous speech - "I Have a Dream" - was read and a Union City local was awarded a proclamation. Members of Emerson High School's Jr. Marine Corp also attended the event as well as other locals.
The city also supplied food, beverages, and flowers for the attendees to mark the holiday.
Commissioner of Public Affairs Lucio Fernandez said the event was one of the best ones.
Said Fernandez, "This is our most prideful event. Everybody takes part in it and we try to make it as accessible as possible to everybody."
Dr. King's speech was read at the ceremony by veteran actor, J. Emerson McGowan.
As a Camden native working out of New York, McGowan noted that he has been reading Dr. King's speech for four years.
McGowan delivered the speech with strong passion and diction as students, educators, and attendees looked on.
In fact, the reading is regarded so highly, Fernandez auditioned for the speaker out of a group of over 30.
After responding with ferocious cheers, the Board of Commissioners awarded Monica Bolds, a local Union City business owner, with a proclamation for her services in the community.
"I wake up everyday and I'm happy to come to Union City," said Bolds adding, "I didn't find Union City; Union City found me!"
Bolds, a dentist based out of 18th Street on Kennedy Blvd., reflected in her speech the hardships of the civil rights movement and the difficulties of change.
"It's been 45 years since I heard [the 'Dream'] speech," said Bolds addressing the students, "have things changed? It's up to you to decide that."
"It's still going on... people are still suffering from injustice," said Bolds.
Bolds, the granddaughter of ex-slaves, inspired the students with her impromptu speech as many students later congratulated her for inspiring them.
Union Hill's History Club students together with Mr. Benway, the advisor to the History Club, appeared to soak in the lessons of Dr. King.
One of their club members, 15-year-old Paola Severino, read an essay of hers describing Dr. King.
Describing the trials of essay-writing, Severino also named her speech "I have a dream."
"[Dr. King] led a selfless life and was dedicated to the future," said Severino in response to King.
The celebration, according to Fernandez, was well-received.
"It was a huge success," said Fernandez. "What's important about the message is that Dr. King was a man who preached for peace, aside from racial equality, his message was of hope and peace and it's important to celebrate that."
Mayor Stack concluded his message to the community by emphasizing the important role the Union City youth plays in perpetuating equality.
"The students set the model," said Mayor Stack, "you're the ones that bring [the ideas] home. You teach others older than you what acceptance really is."
Nicolas Millan can be reached at NMillan@hudsonreporter.com