By Jenae Graves Padilla | For AC JosepH Media
VINELAND — Wednesday, Oct. 11, was a historical day in Vineland with the naming of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Way, organized by the City of Vineland.
Community leaders from across the area joined city officials in naming a portion of Plum Street after the slain global civil rights icon. Dr. Elizabeth Arthur, the first African American president of the Vineland City Council, was the keynote speaker and one of the organizers along with city official Sheena Santiago.
The event came about this past summer through Arthur, Vineland High School teacher Albert Porter, and some of his students. I’Sabel Mayes, QuaSean Dixon, Ashley Dinshah and Derek Tribbet headed the project and presented it in front of the city council. An impressed city council adopted the resolution on July 25, 2023.
There was a buzz in the air. Triumph, pride and thankfulness laced many smiles among the crowd. The dedication, which was held at the Carl V. Arthur Recreation Center, was led by Chris Wilson as master of ceremonies. Wilson is the president of the Vineland Youth Football League.
After acknowledging city officials, Vineland Mayor Anthony Fanucci, and city councilmen, among others, the program got underway. Shiloh Baptist Church Pastor Dr. James A. Dunkins, lead the opening prayer and a scripture reading.
The National Anthem and the Black National Anthem “Lift Every Voice and Sing” was performed by the Vineland High School Choir led by Lorie Cummines-Huck. Fanucci addressed the occasion with his support and eagerness to help push forward this plan.
He spoke with gusto about the great city of Vineland and how it was not a hard decision to rename the street to honor King. He noted the importance of unity throughout the city. He agreed that this was a step in the right direction toward the dream King had, referencing the civil rights leader’s famous speech at the steps of the Lincoln Memorial during the March on Washington in 1963.
State Sen. Michael Testa reinforced the idea of city-wide unity as he expressed his love for Vineland, the town where he grew up. Arthur expressed her delight in taking part in this historic moment.
She remarked with joy over the swiftness in action that was taken to get this project completed. Arthur shared that some of the older citizens thought a day like this would never happen. As she closed, Arthur commended her fellow councilmen along with the mayor for their complete backing of the endeavor.
When it came time for the guest speaker all in attendance were poised to receive her. Loretta Winters, the NAACP NJSC Convention Chair holder, reminded us of the hard-fought battle of the Civil Rights Movement.
Winters highlighted the contribution of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr and applauded that the fight was still going strong, especially in our young people. She left admiring the leadership of Vineland, commenting that any other city would be lucky to have them.
Plum Street to MLK Way
I’Sabel Mayes represented her African American Experience Class by giving remarks at the ceremony. As the resolution was read by Arthur, there were tears from the onlookers. All in attendance were moved by the momentous moment that they witnessed.
Shortly after the reading of the document, the new sign was unveiled. What was once Plum Street now reads Dr. M L King Jr. Way.
NOTE: Jenae Graves Padilla is the head writer and editor at Cornerstone Community Church in Vineland, an author with a new book that debuted in September, and has served as a book reviewer for Front Runner New Jersey.com.
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