While the temperature was low, spirits were high in Haddonfield on Jan. 17, as about 50 residents showed up at borough hall to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day with a candlelight vigil.
The event was organized by the Haddonfield Human Relations Commission and marks the 13th year the town has held a vigil. It was followed by a peaceful march down Kings Highway.
Both commission chair Ellen Stone and Mayor Colleen Bianco Bezich were pleased by the turnout, despite the chilly weather and a recent increase in Camden County COVID cases.
“I’m thrilled that this many people were able to come out considering all of the adverse conditions,” Stone said.
Last year, rather than holding an in person vigil, the commission asked residents to put candles in their windows.
The vigil included remarks from the mayor; a reading of Amanda Gormon’s “Change Sings: A Children’s Anthem,” by Girl Scout Troop 30486; and a performance of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” by the Haddonfield Memorial High School’s co-ed a cappella group.
Unlike in past years – when the commission recognized the winners of an MLK essay-writing contest –, it chose not to do that this year to avoid having indoor spaces.
“Actions are more important than the words we speak, and so it’s important for us to take what we do tonight, from the march down the highway back here to borough hall, (and) to actually carry that on in the actions that we go forward with through the year,” Bianco Bezich said.
The borough celebrated the MLK Day of Service in various ways, with students at all levels of the Haddonfield school district participating. In the elementary schools, kindergarteners made alphabet cards for Love Letters for Literacy, which focuses on underserved communities. First graders and fourth graders brainstormed dreams they have for themselves and the world.
In the middle school throughout the week, Haddonfield eighth grade English-Language Arts students analyzed how words create change by learning the techniques used in King’s “I Have a Dream” speech and his “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” as well as poetry by Amanda Gorman,
At the high school, more than 15 students in the Leo Club partnered with the Haddon Fortnightly to make virtual blankets for the Ronald McDonald House in Camden. Stand with Camden, a student-service organization, put together a large book donation and members of the “Bulldawg Bulletin” baked dog treats for the Voorhees Animal Orphanage.
First Baptist Church hosted a MLK Youth Colloquium at the vigil, with young people of different ministries coming together for a roundtable discussion on modern issues.
“It was a very good discussion,” said Sarah Gilmore, a participant in the colloquium and member of Christ the King Church. “Lots of good music and good answers; it was a very good interfaith service.”