MANCHESTER – For the 54th year, students and local leaders honored the memory of civil rights leader, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr at Manchester Township High School.
As per tradition, the celebration included a performance by the district’s Gospel Chorus. It also featured keynote speaker Wincey Terry Bryant.
The Newark native rap and gospel singer belted out her first solo in a small church in Jersey City in 1977. She went from the choir stand to the music and film industry and worked with Spike Lee, Sting and Tina Turner. She founded a performing arts troupe that educates audiences about serious social issues and academic subject matter in schools and churches throughout New York and New Jersey.
Bryant’s message during the program was inspired by Dr. King, in never giving up your dreams and not to listen to those who tell you that you will fail.
“The Lord made you to do something great and you have everything inside of you to do it. What you have to do is work out that potential inside of you,” Bryant said.
“When I joined the choir, I didn’t even know I could sing. Some of you have books inside of you, or mysteries, businesses inside of you and I’m talking about everybody,” she said.
“He was an ordinary man who decided to take on an extraordinary mission. He didn’t let his humanity limit him,” she said of Dr. King.
Pastor Debra Davis served as this year’s master of ceremonies. She is the founder of the Church Beyond The Walls Inc. and recently received a Lifetime Achievement Award from President Joe Biden for her community work.
“This is my first time here. I am so grateful and honored to be before you. It is an honor and privilege to celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.,” Pastor Davis said.
The event, sponsored in part by donations from the Manchester Township Education Association and the Manchester PTA was held at the high school auditorium. Proceeds from the event’s ticket sales went toward covering the cost of the refreshments that were served up afterward.
The program is believed to be the longest continually running tribute to Dr. King in the state and among the longest in the country. It has featured performances by the Manchester Gospel Chorus and a special Alumni Chorus. The ceremonies began the year after Dr. King’s assassination and was coordinated by chorus founder, Queen Cannon, with the support of the school district. She was a teacher and guidance counselor in Manchester for 35 years. Claire Rutz serves as the Gospel Chorus advisor. Joining them this year was The Jersey Shore Worship Gospel Singers. Pastor Davis gave the benediction with closing remarks by Manchester Gospel Chorus Director Jay Bullock as well as Chorus and Choral Director Taylor Bullock.
Taylor and Jay Bullock worked closely with their mother, former chorus director Selena Bullock who died a few years ago. They, along with Jadyn Bullock, the assistant choral director, have continued the legacy of the chorus and the tribute program.
MTHS Principal Dennis Adams, who is also a pastor, said, “this is always an awesome event. Everyone comes together in unity and in love just like Dr. King would want us to. Next year will be 55 years and we will make it a big-time celebration for the Manchester community.”