ATLANTIC CITY — A memorial ceremony was held Sunday at the Civil Rights Garden near Dr. MLK Jr. Boulevard to mark the 54th anniversary of the assassination of the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.
The ceremony was attended by several prominent politicians, civil servants, activists and religious authorities from the South Jersey region.
King’s murder anniversary is Monday. He was assassinated on April 4, 1968 in Memphis, Tennessee, by James Earl Ray.
Atlantic City Councilman Kaleem Shabazz, who represents the 3rd Ward, spoke first at the ceremony. Also president of the Atlantic City chapter of the NAACP, Shabazz said people should think about how to advance King’s legacy and promote equality.
“We believe in the NAACP that we are still fighting some of the fights that Doctor King led,” Shabazz said.
Others in attendance included General Counsel Stephanie Marshall and State Assemblyman Don Guardian. James Sarkos, the acting officer in charge of the Atlantic City Police Department, and former police chief Henry White also came to the event, along with a dozen members of the Police Explorers of Atlantic City – an organization designed to introduce young people to police work.
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Pastor Stafford Miller of the United Methodist Church in Asbury, urged the young people present to keep the memory of King’s movement alive. Drawing on Jewish tradition, Miller placed a visitation stone on one of the pillars of the Civil Rights Garden Memorial to mark King’s life and death.
“A lot of people do good speeches, great, a lot of people do good deeds, great, but (King) started a movement,” Miller said.
Doug Stanger — an executive committee member of the Philadelphia-area Anti-Defamation League — urged the next generation to keep working to advance King’s legacy. He cited the lawsuits against members of the far-right Oath Keepers militia who took part in the January 6, 2021, uprising at the United States Capitol as an example of a modern battle for justice.
“Certainly, standing here with all of you, I feel the presence of Dr. King and all that he must have brought to our world that we carry on as his legacy to carry on in his fight,” Stanger said. “We need to come together as we continue to do, and it’s beautiful to see us all together today.”
Imam Amin Muhammad, of Atlantic City’s Masjid Muhammad, also urged young people in attendance to study King’s life story and work to replicate the work he did to promote human rights. .
“What lessons, what advice should I take from history, from the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and how should I live now,” Muhammad asked. “If we learn to be human beings and embody the meaning of humanity, which is mercy to others…civil rights become human rights and we will all live in a free, just and equal for all.”
Speaking after Muhammad, Marshall commemorated King and spoke about the importance of addressing gun violence. She noted that King and then his mother, Alberta Williams King, had been killed by armed assassins.
Guardian, R-Atlantic, praised King for the change he has brought to the world while maintaining his fervent commitment to nonviolence.
After the speeches, there was a brief wreath laying ceremony in the Civil Rights Garden.
Contact Chris Doyle