‘We have to listen to his words, not just extol them’

Holt tells Community YMCA at MLK memorial


The Community YMCA (CYMCA) 19th annual Memorial Breakfast celebrating the life of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. started off with hushed rumblings about the Giants’ leap to the Super Bowl and ended with everyone on their feet, slapping hands together in praise of King’s message and legacy.

As she introduced the Red Bank CYMCA Black/Hispanic Achievers to lead the flag salute, mistress of ceremonies Rosalind Seawright, of Riverview Medical Center in Red Bank, said the Jan. 21 program was meant to be one of uplifting inspiration and a call to all for action.

The program started with a reading of King’s famous “I have a dream …” speech, which set the theme of the breakfast: peace, acceptance of diversity, and the impact of King’s teachings on today’s youth.

“Peace and acceptance is easy when it is understood that people are people no matter what they look like or believe,” said Freehold Borough High School senior Jeremy A. Goldfarb in his winning essay.

Goldfarb and Red Bank Regional (RBR) High School junior Victoria I. Ramirez were the two winners of this year’s CYMCA essay contest, winning a $400 savings bond from the Two River Community Bank and a YMCA membership.

“Three ways for me to promote Dr. King’s legacy of peace and diversity are to fight for Darfur, befriend people who are different from me, and never forget the dream,” said Ramirez in her winning essay.

She continued, “His [King] death, for me, has not killed him but revived him. He is in you and me waiting to speak out, to lend a loving hand. He is dispersing through our nation and must never be forgotten, for he is alive.”

The event, which was also hosted by the YMCA of Western Monmouth County, took place at Branches in West Long Branch.

At the event were officials from the Red Bank public school system, the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office, clergy and officials from both CYMCA and the YMCA.

“We are pleased to host the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Breakfast annually,” said Gary I. Laermer, president and chief executive officer of the CYMCA, in a press release. “The teachings of Dr. King serve to remind us of the essential role that diversity plays in the goals and mission of the YMCA, and in each of our programs and services that promote character development in youth.”

New Jersey Congressman Rush Holt (D-12) was present and shared his feelings about King’s legacy.

“From this day on, we have to be careful not to reduce King to an icon. We have to listen to his words, not just extol them,” said Holt, adding, “This is not a day of history … the torch is passed to each of us. It is the obligation of each of us to do the right thing. It is not waiting for the next crisis, the next trial. It is an everyday [job] to do the right thing.”

For the third time, Monmouth County Prosecutor Luis A. Valentin was also on hand to present the HumanitarianAward; this year to RBR High School senior Sarah M. Gerth.

“Every January we celebrate the dream of one of our most respected leaders, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.,” said Valentin. “King exposed and extricated America from many wrongs.”

Valentin read a lengthy list of Gerth’s accomplishments, including being a member of the CYMCA Model United Nations, a tutor, captain of the girls tennis team at RBR, and president of the Government Club at the school.

“She [Gerth] has demonstrated a true and caring commitment in enriching others through her volunteer work,” said Valentin.

He said Gerth was following the high ideals exhibited by King.

Author and keynote speaker Darryl C. Walls drew from past experiences to convey his message to the audience.

Walls used King’s life as a model to demonstrate the five phases of a leader’s growth or inner development.

“There’s something in particular that’s your purpose. Service is work done for others, that’s why we are here today: King was working not for himself but for everybody in here today,” said Walls.

Walls is also the CEO of a group called MINDS, which stands for Mental Intensity Naturally Determines Success, and specializes in giving corporations, schools, faith-based organizations, community groups and individuals the tools for leadership development, team-building and goal-setting.

He said it was too often that people were simply working for the pay and not fulfilling their purpose in life, nor do many know what their purpose is in life.

“If you’re in your purpose, you will struggle. Embrace the struggle,” said Walls.

He added, “The Giants weren’t going to get to the Super Bowl, so they had to believe outside of themselves [to succeed].”

Walls said the one thing King did not have was a plan for succession. He said there was no one ready to lead in King’s place once he was gone.

“The message is … to get on board with that [succession] plan; you need to take somebody to mentor … because when he [King] was snuffed out, there was a vacuum of leadership,” he said.

Walls implored the audience to start sharing their history with others.

“Don’t leave the history in history; you need the history in the present so you can see where you are going in the future,” he said.

At the end of his speech, with voice raised, Walls said, “Let freedom ring was his [King’s] dream. I ask you today, what is your purpose and how will you let it ring?”