WESTFIELD, NJ — Donna Ray has been attending the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Association of Westfield’s annual service for some 15 years.

This year, the Westfield resident said it was more important than ever that she and her 13-year-old daughter participated in the annual accompanying MLK Day march that started at the South Avenue Circle and proceeded into downtown Westfield on Monday

“It’s significant to march this year in particular because of all of the trauma that we have collectively gone through in this country and the loss of and the violence toward Black lives,” said Ray, who carried a small sign stating “Black Lives Matter” and marched beside her daughter, Alexis.

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The mother and daughter were among about 75 people to march in the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Association of Westfield’s 34th annual march — an event modified from its usual format due to COVID-19. The service afterward, which would typically be held at a house of worship, was broadcast on YouTube and local access TV.

President of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Association of Westfield Elizabeth Wolf in a speech delivered at the MLK monument noted that a recently hung banner at the monument stating “Say Their Names …” and remembering Black people, who were killed, had gone missing over the weekend.

“These banners have been vandalized numerous times since we put them up starting in the summer, and it’s frustrating that there are people in our community, who feel the need to take down our banner memorializing people who have died as a result of race-based violence,” Wolf said.

She added: “We will do all we can to make sure that no one forgets these victims, and we ask you to join us in this. We are determined.”

Among the dignitaries in attendance were Mayor Shelley Brindle, state Sen. Tom Kean Jr. and members of the Westfield Town Council.

Speaking to those gathered, Brindle reflected on what King may have thought of the Black Lives Matter Movement of today.

“I imagine he would have loved the fact that this nonviolent movement is powered not only by this younger generation but strengthened by people of all ages and all colors demanding long overdue justice and equality for all,” Brindle said. “Dr. King is surely looking down with pride on the Black Lives Matter movement and its commitment to justice for those whose names we see erected on these handmade signs we see.”

Watch video of the service below:

Watch the opening remarks for the march here: 

Email Matt Kadosh at mkadosh@tapinto.net | Twitter: @MattKadosh

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