Obama on most minds as NJ marks King Day

January 19, 2009 6:44:29 AM PST
With the nation's first black president set to take office Tuesday, Barack Obama was front and center at celebrations marking the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. From pulpits to community centers to living rooms, New Jerseyans started celebrating the slain civil rights leader's birthday in events that started Saturday and would continue through Obama's inauguration on Tuesday.

Karen Jones of Trenton said she sees a direct line between King and Obama.

"It's like a passing of the torch," she said at an event at Trenton's War Memorial on Sunday.

Gov. Jon Corzine said King's vision has yet to be fully realized.

"Martin Luther King lost his life in Memphis working for economic equality, talking about the living wage, but on Tuesday, we will have a partner to help us get to that promised land," he said.

Beri Okeuzue, a medical student who was honored with a scholarship, said she wishes her mother was alive to see Obama take office.

"It really aches my heart that she is not here today," she said. "I think she might have called my generation the generation of a dream realized."

In Newark, the Rev. Jethro C. James Jr. focused on Obama in his King Day sermon Sunday at Paradise Baptist Church.

"I'm hoping that Barack will hear the voices of the past," he said. "Mr. Obama, Martin is speaking to us from the grave."

In Hackensack, congregants at the Rhema Worship Center also had Obama on their minds as they honored King.

"You now have this inauguration where (King) had this dream," said Rev. Eric Brewer. "We're witnessing history."

On Monday, events honoring King were scheduled across the state, including many that incorporated Obama's call for the day to be "a day of service."

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