Richard T. Smith, President of the New Jersey State Conference of the NAACP, will be the keynote speaker at the 28th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Breakfast hosted by The Community YMCA and YMCA of Western Monmouth County.
The annual YMCA event honoring the life and legacy of the civil rights leader and featuring winners of a high school essay contest, will take place Monday, Jan. 16, 8 to 10 a.m., at Branches Catering, West Long Branch.
Rhonda Anderson, President and CEO of The Community YMCA, said the YMCAs of Monmouth County are proud to host the annual memorial breakfast to help keep Dr. King’s spirit and teachings alive. “It is important for everyone to understand Dr. King’s legacy as a peacemaker and humanitarian. Now more than ever, his message needs to be carried on to the next generation,” Anderson said.
The memorial event will include presentations by the two winners of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Essay Contest, sponsored by Investors Bank and Monmouth County Chiefs of Police Association.
High school students currently participating in programs at The Community YMCA or the Western Monmouth County YMCA are invited to enter the essay contest. Applications are available at www.cymca.org/MLK. The two winning essayists will each receive a $500 scholarship.
The deadline for applications for the essay contest is Jan. 5. Submissions and questions may be sent via e-mail to MLKessays@cymca.org.
Keynote Speaker Smith was elected to serve as the President of the New Jersey State Conference of the NAACP in 2013 and was overwhelmingly re-elected at the state convention in 2015 for another two-year term. A silver-life member of the NAACP, Smith has served as the 1st Vice President and the 3rd Vice President of the New Jersey state conference and as the Southern Region Coordinator. He also served as the Chairman of the NAACP Convention Planning Committee and seven terms as President of the NAACP Greater Vineland Branch, No. 2115.
He currently serves as one of seven commissioners on the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights and in 2013 was unanimously elected by his fellow commissioners as Commissions chairman. Smith also served on the Vineland Board of Education.
A native of Trenton, Smith attended Trenton State College, now the College of New Jersey, where he majored in Speech Communications and Theatre. He also attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City and Atlantic County College. He retired in 2015 from a 25-year career with the New Jersey Department of Corrections and returned to work in January 2016 to accept a position as Confidential Assistant to the Warden of the Cumberland County Department of Corrections.
He is member of St. Matthews Baptist Church in Williamstown, Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc., PBA Local 105, Coalition of Black Trade Unionist, Off Broad Street Players and Downtown Company of Performing Artists. He is married to Lucesita Smith and is the proud father of four children.
Anderson noted that the service project for the breakfast will support Project Homeless Connect of Monmouth County, a charity that works to provide various health and human services for the homeless and those at risk of becoming homeless. Donations of new gloves, mittens, scarves and socks will be collected at the breakfast.
Seating for the breakfast is limited. Tickets are $30 per adult, $10 per youth (12 & under) or $250 per table of 10 and are available online at www.cymca.org/MLK.