Record Crowd Honors Martin Luther King Jr. At Community Breakfast

MLK Day Breakfast 2016 - 20

Dale Caldwell, left, and his father, the Rev. Gilbert Caldwell, were the keynote speakers at the 19th Annual Franklin Township Community Breakfast Jan. 18.

More than 400 people gathered at the Doubletree Hotel on Atrium Drive Jan. 18 for the township’s annual celebration of the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

The Franklin Township Community Breakfast is also a fund raiser for a scholarship program targeting graduating Franklin High School seniors. To date, the event has raised more than $146,000, which has been awarded to 149 students.

Alex Kharazi, one of the event’s organizers, said the approximately 420 attendees was the most in the event’s history.

Although this is the 19th year the event was held, it is the first organized by the newly formed Franklin Township Dr. Martin Luther King Community Foundation.

This year attendees saw two keynote speakers, the Rev. Gilbert Caldwell and his son, Dale. The elder Caldwell met King in 1958 and marched with him in the 1963 March on Washington and the 1965 Selma to Montgomery March, among others.

Dale Caldwell is the Head of School and CEO of Village Charter School in Trenton and founder of the “Middle Class Movement.”

The two took the podium together, presenting a question-and-answer format in which the younger Caldwell asked questions of his father.

Rev. caldwell said that although there have been strides made in civil rights for people of color, “it’s clear that the job is not finished.”

Watching the recent debates among presidential contenders, Caldwell said, “it’s clear that there are people who have not grasped ‘America’.”

“We have to confess that, as a nation, we don’t walk our talk,” Caldwell said.

Caldwell talked about his first meeting King in the late 1950s.

“I felt that there was something unique about him,” Caldwell said, saying that King exhibited an “authentic humility.”

When asked by his son why the country stills seems to be segregated, Rev. Caldwell said, “There seems to be a feeling that we have to be most at home with people who look like me, who worship like I do.”

Looking out into the racially and ethnically mixed crowd, Caldwell said that he hopes people were recording the event on video.

“Some people do not understand the magnificence of togetherness,” he said. “I’m so glad to see this here.”

The elder Caldwell several times tried to steer the conversation to economics, which is his son’s bailiwick, but Dale Caldwell kept returning the focus to his father and the civil rights movement.

“Our leaders need to realize that their job is to empower people, that’s what Dr. King did,” Dale Caldwell said.

Gesturing to the crowd, he said, “The world looks like this.”

Also on the program were two poetry readings by 10-year-old Taejah McKnight, a member of New Jersey Orators. McKnight, a student at Sampson G. Smith Intermediate School, read “Equality” and “Alone” by Maya Angelou.

The Star Spangled Banner was sung by Angela Bodino, a professor at Raritan Valley Community College in Branchburg.

Rabbi Eli Garfinkel of Temple Beth El presented the offertory, during which he encouraged those in attendance to contribute to the scholarship fund.

2016 MLK Community Breakfast



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