Union City officially unveiled the city’s Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Monument on Monday, February 28. The monument was revealed on the chilly morning on the last day of Black History Month at Ellsworth Park, located at Palisade Avenue and 23rd Street.
Students from Sarah Gilmore Academy and members of the Junior ROTC from Union City High School were present alongside city and school district officials for the unveiling. The event was led by Union City Commissioner of Public Affairs Lucio Fernandez.
“We honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in commemoration of Black History Month,” Fernandez said.
Prior to the unveiling, Chief of Police Nichelle Luster spoke briefly on the importance of the monument.
“I can’t think of a better way to end Black History Month than dedicating this to a great civil rights leader,” Luster said.
According to Luster, the U.S. has made strides thanks to King, Jr., but there is still work to be done.
“I had a conversation this month with a few young men of color,” Luster said. “We sat down and we talked about what their perception of society, and policing, and different things in New Jersey and the United States. It was clear to me based off our conversation that we need to do better. This shouldn’t be about a moment or a month. There needs to be continued communication and work to make things equal for all.”
Ralph Passante, representing the Union City Board of Education, echoed Luster stating: “This is not just about a moment, this is about making permanent, enduring change for the better. I think it’s particularly important in a city like Union City where we have so many people of color, that we honor a civil rights icon like Dr. King. Also I think it’s important we remember his legacy is one of peaceful protest and unity. Especially with the situation that’s going on in Ukraine right now, I think that’s something we should all bear in mind.”
Passante thanked Mayor Brian Stack and the commissioners for having the statue installed.
Commissioners applaud new statue
Commissioners Maryury Martinetti, Wendy Grullon, and Celin Valdivia each spoke about their pride in the new statue.
“Union City is a place where we come together,” Martinetti said. “All different races are here. There’s not a better place to have this monument of Martin Luther King, who stands for unity, equality, and civil rights. It’s a great day in Union City history to have this monument for this wonderful person.”
“This is a proud day for Union City,” Grullon said. “We are so honored to have this monument here. This will honor the legacy and memory of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. And it’s a way to continue promoting diversity, compassion, and love in our community,”
“Martin luther King was never an elected official, but in my opinion, historically, he’s as big as all of the presidents we have had in the United States,” Valdivia said. “His movement was historical, getting civil rights for all of us, and he opened the doors for all of us. Most of the kids here are from Hispanic countries. He opened the doors for all of us, with equal rights. Always remember your history, and be proud of your country.”
After the speeches by officials, one eighth grader read a portion of MLK, Jr.’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech. Then students unveiled the statue, which was designed by Marco Designs, according to Fernandez.
Mayor Stack was on his way to the event but was unable to attend due to emergency, according to Fernandez. However, Fernandez said Stack sent his regards to all who attended the unveiling.
“It was his idea several years ago to have this done,” Fernandez said.
“We are very proud of our mayor for getting this done for our community.”
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