New Community’s Senior Advisory Board hosted its 30th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Scholarship Dinner, where this year’s keynote speaker was Newark Mayor Ras Baraka.
The annual scholarship dinner, which was well attended by seniors from NCC buildings in Newark, Orange and Jersey City, honored the legacy of King by awarding a $500 scholarship to a college-bound high school senior from an NCC residence.
During Baraka’s keynote address, he paid tribute to King by acknowledging the sacrifices that King and past civil rights leaders have made to advance racial equality in America.
“We need to give homage and thanks to those who came before us,” Baraka said during his remarks at the NCC Neighborhood Center in Newark. “We walked a long walk to get where we are here today.”
Elnora Haynes, Vice President of the Senior Advisory Board, introduced Baraka at the podium and praised the mayor for being an accessible leader and a man of the people.
“I’ve seen him everywhere,” Haynes said, citing his visit to NCC during the holidays where Baraka sang carols with high schoolers at senior buildings. “That’s what you have to do when you’re a good mayor.”
Despite major strides made over the decades to overcome racial prejudice, Baraka noted that people must continue to fight against inequality.
“The struggle is not over. There is a whole lot more we have to do,” he said.
The scholarship is funded by the Senior Advisory Board, which holds two fundraisers each year to help a youth from NCC defray the costs of attending college, according to Janie Lewis, Assistant Secretary.
Robert Williams, a senior at People’s Preparatory Charter School in Newark, was this year’s scholarship recipient. Williams, 18, lives at NCC Manor Family and said he aspires to attend Morgan State University in Baltimore, Md.
“I would like to say ‘thank you’ to everyone. I’m honored to be here,” Williams, who wants to study medicine, said.
The evening affair included several musical selections performed by the NCC Gospel Choir, led by Gloria Chambers-Benoit. Attendees also enjoyed performances by praise dancers from Love of Jesus Family Church. During the evening, City Council President Mildred Crump and former Councilwoman Bessie Walker, who now oversees the city’s programs for seniors, made appearances and also spoke to the crowd.
West Market BBQ catered the dinner, which was served by the Care Coordinators of NCC Health and Social Services. To wrap up the evening, the Senior Advisory Board accepted donations from the Tenant Associations of each New Community senior building.