CRANFORD, NJ — The Clergy Council and Interfaith Human Relations Committee of Cranford hosted its Martin Luther King Jr. commemorative service on Thursday, Jan. 13, to honor the fallen civil rights icon.
Opening the program was the Rev. Cameron Overbey, who said the MLK day of service on Monday, Jan. 17, would be recognized with a drive-up-and-drop-off event at the First Presbyterian Church in Cranford. The council was asking for donations of wrapped sandwiches for St. Joseph Social Service Center; diapers and wipes for Raphael’s Life House; new socks, gloves and hats for the Elizabeth Coalition to House the Homeless; and food pantry items for Cranford Family Care.
“The theme of tonight is legacies. Both the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. himself and how Cranford residents and leaders over the years have lived into that legacy with their own hands and feet, pursuing social justice and equity in civil rights,” Overbey said during the service.
Receiving the MLK Social Justice Award at St. Mark AME Church of Cranford was Patricia Carter, who was presented the award by the Rev. Deborah Brooks of the Cranford Clergy Council and Interfaith Human Relations Committee.
“For those of you who do not know Pat, she’s a third-generation member of St. Marks and is no stranger to acts of kindness,” said Brooks at the service. “A community is only as strong as their support. Ms. Carter has dedicated her time to preparing and serving folks in need of hot meals, monthly groceries for families that are food insecure, emergency groceries for families that run short in the middle of the month, and holiday gifts for individual children and families through the Rahway Food for Friends Soup Kitchen.”
Brooks said that Carter had served in various capacities on the executive board of Rahway Food for Friends, where approximately 80 to 120 meals are served weekly, more than 300 children were given holiday gifts and more than 600 cartons of groceries were distributed to families in need.
“Pat’s caring heart has expanded her efforts in giving back by also organizing clothing, bedding and winter coat drives at the soup kitchen,” Brooks added. “Pat is aware she cannot fix all problems in the world, but she strives to be a catalyst in propelling all those in contact with her to greater heights, and her life has proven this to be true. Pat is a breast cancer survivor and credits a community of close friends and family propelling her through her difficult time that helped her serve in an extraordinary capacity she does today. Pat hopes her presence in this world will make a difference to the people she encounters, much like those who assisted in her time of need. She no longer only dreams she is doing the work. She wants her life to speak for her.”
Brooks said that, true to her words, Carter is a hard worker and dedicated to humankind. She has retired from the Social Security Administration after 34 years. Brooks said she currently serves as a trustee at St. Marks AME Church in Cranford, serves at the soup kitchen and is currently a full-time realtor. She is a proud mother of one daughter, Sabrina, and even prouder grandmother of Isaiah. She said Carter truly demonstrates concern for the welfare of others.
After being presented with the award, Carter thanked many.
“Martin Luther King had many quotes. ‘Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, What are you doing for others?’” Carter said during her speech. “Everyone can be great, because everybody can serve. You don’t have to have a good college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subjects inferior to serve. You only need a heart full of grace and a soul generated by love. If you can’t fly, then run. If you can’t run, then walk. If you can’t walk, then crawl. But whatever you do, keep moving forward. I keep my eyes always looking forward. Yesterday was great, but tomorrow is always something new. Thank you, my God, for another day to serve.”
Cranford Equity and Inclusivity Initiative member Sherry Williams spoke of the group’s work and King’s impact.
“Along with fellow members the Rev. Alfred Brown, Chris Chapman, Chief Ryan Greco, Arthur Hearns, Scott Rubin and Kathleen Miller Prunty, we, with the usage of social media, broadcasted ‘The Talk’ — the sharing of vulnerable personal experiences, afforded a glimpse into the explicit bias felt by some African Americans/Black members in the community,” Williams said during the program. “The positive and negative feedback was an indication of where Cranford is in our ability to be accepting of others’ struggle and the ability to confront false concepts of the lives of others.
“Martin Luther King Jr. is a true visionary of what a united country should become,” she continued. “There is a nonprofit called StoryCorps, where their purpose is to allow individuals to share their life story. They also have a new incentive, which is to bring individuals from different cultures to meet and share and hear each other’s stories, to increase understanding of others and increase awareness of commonality. We at Cranford Equity and Inclusivity hope to have increased residents’ and other state members’ participation in including and understanding each other to allow for greater enjoyment in Cranford and what each of us can offer to each other. Please join us, and others within the community, as we strive to emulate Martin Luther King Jr.’s vision.”