32nd Annual Dr. King Celebration Marches On
SHREWSBURY, NJ – The YMCA of Greater Monmouth County will celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at a live, virtual event at 8 a.m. on Friday, January 15, 2021.
The event marks the Y’s 32nd commemoration of Dr. King and is free and open to the public. It was shifted to a virtual format due to COVID-19 and to welcome more participation from the community.
“The YMCA of Greater Monmouth County is proud to bring the community together in a different way to reflect on Dr. King’s teachings in the context of what’s happening today,” said YMCA President and CEO Laurie Goganzer. “We aim to grow support for social justice, and the important work of Dr. King and today’s civic leaders.”
A highlight of the annual event is an essay contest open to all high school students in greater Monmouth County. Two essays will be selected as grand prize winners and the winning students will read their essays to online guests. Both winners will receive a $1,500 education scholarship, sponsored by Hackensack Meridian Health, New Jersey Natural Gas, and PorterPlus Realty, along with a one-year youth membership to a YMCA of Greater Monmouth County branch of their choice.
Interested students are invited to submit a 300- to 500- word essay to the Y by 5 p.m., Dec. 11. Information about the essay theme and the entry application are available at https://www.ymcanj.org/mlk.
Students participating in the essay contest are invited to a free, online writing workshop on Monday, Dec. 7, 7-8 p.m., in partnership with Project Write Now. Project Write Now is a local non-profit that helps underserved youth develop writing and communication skills needed to achieve academic success, resiliency, and personal growth. Students will learn the process of how to approach a writing task, including the importance of freewriting to discover the essential theme of a piece. They will also learn how to incorporate anecdotes and build out their ideas with concrete examples. Students must register in advance for the writing workshop.
Keynote speaker for the event will be Kerwin Webb, Youth and Young Adult pastor at Second Baptist Church in Asbury Park and president of the Greater Red Bank Area NAACP. A firm believer in education, mentoring, training, and community development, Webb founded the RMW Foundation, Inc. in 2013, a non-profit organization with a mission to “feed, educate and empower.”
A native of Birmingham, Alabama, Webb earned a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Alabama State University and a Master of Divinity from Princeton Theological Seminary. He serves as an education specialist for Interfaith Neighbors and coalition liaison for the New Jersey Social Justice Remembrance Coalition. He is a member of the board of directors for T. Thomas Fortune Foundation & Cultural Center and Centers for Black Excellence. He is also a sacred sector fellow at The Center for Public Justice.
The Y will present its Martin Luther King Jr. Human Dignity Award to Gwendolyn Love, executive director of Lunch Break. The award honors an individual who reflects Dr. King’s principles and ideals in philosophy and action.
“Gwen Love is the perfect candidate this year,” said event chairman and Y board member Michael Wright. “She is always fighting for equity, human rights, and dignity for all in a very compassionate and professional manner. She is progressive and traditional at the same time and has such a warm spirit. We could not be more thrilled to honor Gwen with the Y’s Human Dignity Award for 2021.”
Last year’s award recipient Wayne Boatwright, vice president of Diversity and Inclusion at Hackensack Meridian Health, will be presenting the award to Love.
To register for the event or to learn more, visit www.ymcanj.org/MLK.
About YMCA of Greater Monmouth County
YMCA of Greater Monmouth County is here for all – to empower youth and teens, improve health and strengthen community. A leading nonprofit charity, the Y unites 36,000 people of all ages, incomes, and backgrounds. In 2019, we provided $875,000 in financial assistance to strengthen approximately 2,820 families in need. Our life-changing programs and services are anchored in 10 communities: health and wellness facilities in Freehold Township, Old Bridge and Red Bank; outdoor day camps in Millstone and Wall; a community center in Freehold Borough; counseling and social service centers in Eatontown, Matawan and Middletown; child care centers in Freehold Township, Matawan and Red Bank; and integrated in nearly 100 schools in Monmouth and Ocean counties. We’re based in Shrewsbury, NJ. Learn more at www.ymcanj.org.