Students, faculty, staff and parents came together outside the Asbury Park Middle School Wednesday to join in renaming of the school in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
The ceremony included unveiling of a sign honoring the civil rights leader who was killed in Memphis, Tennessee in 1968. The program began with welcoming remarks by the Principal, Dr. Rashawn Adams, and Superintendent Dr. Lamont Repollet and featured Edith Savage- Jennings, a longtime friend of the King family who called her “Aunt Edith.”
Dr. Repollet noted that King appeared in Asbury Park in 1960 and spoke before a crowd of 1300 at Asbury Park High School. He called Dr. King “a visionary leader” and said renaming the school “was not just to change the name, but to change the way the Asbury Park school district is perceived in the state of New Jersey.”
The special honored guest, 91-year old Edith Savage-Jennings of Trenton, told how she first met Dr. King in 1957 in the state capitol and began a life-long commitment to the King legacy as a fundraiser and family friend, a member of Dr. King’s inner circle. “He was my leader and my friend,” Jennings said. She said Dr. King had a beautiful wife with a beautiful spirit and four beautiful children. Dr. King’s youngest daughter, Dr. Bernice King, was scheduled to speak later at the Paramount Theater as part of the school district’s Black History Month Extravaganza. Savage-Jennings also told how she joined the civil rights movement as a teenager by helping to integrate the theaters of Trenton by refusing to take seats in the balcony where Negroes had been forced to sit.
Speaking directly to the middle school students gathered for the ceremony, Savage-Jennings urged them to become mentors, to keep their grades up and go to college. “Find something extra to do instead of hanging in the streets.” She added, “I don’t know what the future holds, but people do get better. We will all be free someday.”
Following her remarks, the crowd moved down Bangs Ave. where the cover was taken off the new sign that reads: “Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School.’