Asbury Park Remembers Martin Luther King Jr.

By Lauren Wanko

They carry the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. through the streets of Asbury Park.

“Everyone wants to seem to think because he was black he only spoke for blacks. He did not. He was a person for humanity,” said Rev. William E. Coleman of the Second Baptist Church of Asbury Park.

In the mid-1950s, the King was recruited to serve as the spokesperson for the Montgomery Bus Boycott, organized to end transportation segregation. The boycott was successful and the Baptist minister soon became the leader of the Civil Rights Movement.

“By 1959 he has coalesced hundreds of ministers throughout the South to organize similar protests,” said Monmouth University Professor Walter Greason.

Peaceful, non-violent protests.

“The complexity for King is he used the idea of peaceful protest to provoke what he knew was violent retaliation so he relied on local photographers, news media, to be present to witness the kind of terrorism that was common when anyone tried to challenge racial segregation,” Greason said.

In 1963, about 250,000 people joined King on the March on Washington for jobs and freedom

“It becomes the template for everything that follows throughout the rest of the 20th century. It’s that public protest can then create new national public policy,” Greason said.

It’s where King delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. Retired United Methodist Minister Gilbert Caldwell was there.

“We felt called to be involved in the Civil Rights Movement because we felt the nation needed to have that kind of movement, therefore we knew we were about something special,” Caldwell said.

Caldwell calls it a great American experience.

“When you saw him a platform or a pulpit there was a seriousness, a soberness about him. Then in personal relationships the ability to be very much at home with you one on one,” said Caldwell.

“He was more than just “I Have a Dream” speech, he was a person out there fighting for financial support, education, he dealt with unions,” Coleman said. “Everything that he marched for we’re putting back on the table, saying Dr. Martin Luther King is alive and well in us.”

Dr. Coleman says on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, residents typically donate their time, giving back to the community at soup kitchens, nursing homes and churches, but because of the recent events in Ferguson and throughout other parts of the country, they decided to march to emphasize the importance of building a better relationship among residents, law enforcement and local officials.

Asbury Park Acting Police Chief Anthony Salerno joined the march.

When asked what the key is to creating a better, more trustworthy bond between residents and police officers in Asbury Park, Salerno said, “It’s my personal opinion that trust has been diluted over the years with the patrol car. We’ve gone back to old fashion policing, attending community meetings, attending community functions, we started the walking patrol.”

These community members vow to continue to follow in the footsteps of Dr. Martin King Jr.

“He would be marching today, he would be at soup kitchens today,” Coleman said.

Not just on his holiday, but every day.