by Jack Silbert
On a brilliant winter morning, the children of Hoboken took to the streets, demanding freedom and equality. It was the Hoboken Charter School’s 15th annual March on Washington Street, in honor of Martin Luther King Jr.
This year’s theme was “Human Rights = Civil Rights.” Students proudly headed down the main thoroughfare toting excellent handmade signs with slogans including “Separate Is Not Equal,” “No One Is Born Racist,” and “Got M.L.K.?”
The march concluded at City Hall, where a ceremony took place. Local songstress and coffee queen Abbe Rivers performed a stirring rendition of our national anthem. Second-grader Agastya Batchu then led the large assembled crowd in the “Pledge of Allegiance,” and fourth-grader Linda Blackwell-Hill recited Langston Hughes’ poem “I, Too, Sing America” with assistance from school nurse LaWanda White.
The school’s Director of Service Learning, S.K. Duff, welcomed the crowd, and talked about his own experiences with civil rights growing up in Oklahoma. Next, Hoboken Charter School Board President Lauren Calmas introduced Mayor Dawn Zimmer. The Mayor congratulated the students on their commitment to justice, and pointed to the recent troubles in France as a reminder of the importance of our rights.
To close the event, music teacher Sean Gavarny, a.k.a. Mr. G, was joined by Ms. Rivers to lead everyone in a triumphant sing-a-long of “We Shall Overcome.” Then the students were instructed to walk back up Washington Street, but this time on the sidewalks—for safety’s sake.