MORRISTOWN – Martin Luther King Jr. was a rabble rouser, or if you prefer, a “disruptor.” Don’t romanticize him.
That was the blunt message at today’s annual MLK observance in the Calvary Baptist Church by Dr. David Jefferson, pastor of Metropolitan Baptist Church in Newark.
Jefferson told a crowd that included a number of local elected officials that King was in good company.
He said Moses was a disruptor, as was the biblical Ruth, and, of course, Jesus as well.
The pastor tied his history lesson to the world today, noting that many hear a message of “faith and hope” at Sunday church services and then exit into a world where “faith” and “hope” seem to mean little.
He said the problem is economic.
Without money, philosophical musings about faith don’t have much of a shelf life.
As Jefferson reiterated, often in the booming cadence for which Baptist preachers are known, much of King’s life was about civil rights – the ability of all to attend the same school, stay in the same hotels and dine in the same restaurants.
But he also quoted King as saying access to the lunch counter means little, if one “doesn’t have the money to buy a hamburger.”
Jefferson said the only answer is for people to organize and to fight for economic justice.
Or as he observed, if we want young people to vote, we have to give them a reason to do so. The political tint here was hard to miss. At least twice, Jefferson mentioned “Cory,” noting that Sen. Cory Booker is a member of his congregation.
As a concept, economic justice is more controversial than basic equality, delving into such things as social spending, tax policy and the relationship between government and large corporations.
“How can a family live on fourteen dollars and thirteen cents an hour?” Jefferson asked.
That is the state’s minimum wage. Left unsaid was that the minimum wage in New Jersey has been incrementally increasing for the last few years. It rose to $14.13 this year and will hit $15 per hour in 2024.
Jefferson also mentioned a battle being fought on a much higher level.
He spoke of a suit recently filed by Blueprint Capital Advisories, a black-owned business in Newark, against the state of New Jersey alleging racial discrimination. In short, the company alleges that the state’s Division of Investment used Blueprint’s proprietary information without permission.
One point Jefferson made was that a judge last month refused to dismiss the suit. But a larger point was that the firm had the courage to file suit against the state in the first place.
In other words, they were “disruptors.”
Prior to Jefferson’s keynote, John Krickus, the director of the Morris County Commissioners, delivered a message from the county.
He spoke of another era – King’s era – when some officials stood in schoolhouse doors to block entrance.
But he contrasted that to the Morris County of today where the board has invested and expanded opportunities at County College of Morris and the school of technology.
Krickus said, “Ladies and gentlemen, I would suggest there has never been a greater opportunity for us to come together, to develop and use our God given talents to bend the arc of economic and social justice at a faster pace, so our actions can realize the dream.”