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Op-Ed: Montgomery Township Deputy Mayor Shelly L. Bell Reflects on a Civil Rights Legend

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” ― Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

By Shelly L. Bell, Deputy Mayor of Montgomery Township | January 13, 2022

Let us remember the lifelong enthusiasm — and dedication to achieving equality for all Americans through nonviolent means — on Saturday, which is the 93rd birthday of the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and again on Monday, January 17, the federal holiday honoring the Civil Rights legend.

A man of love and compassion, an American, a Black American, a Christian preacher of the gospel of Jesus Christ, Dr. King addressed the conscience of a nation with eloquent words rooted in the very truth of God's Word, and helped change the course of history.

Dr. King dared to dream. His vision allowed me, as an African American woman, to walk through many doors that had previously been closed to people of color. I have been able to bring individuals from all walks of life together around the concept that we are all equals.

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The noble Dr. King devoted his life to helping others, and to better his community. The government was compelled to bend its regulations multiple times, because of his work. He worked for a number of causes, and participated in non-violent protests and boycotts.

Give Us the Ballot

Dr. King addressed the need for equal voting rights in a 1957 speech titled "Give Us the Ballot." But what would he think of the recent wave of restrictive voting legislation sweeping our country? How would he lead us in the ongoing assault on voting rights, especially the two voting rights measures delayed in the US Senate — The Freedom to Vote Act and The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act?

If we wish to honor his legacy, we must mobilize people to vote and guarantee the public is informed on how to use their votes to create a just, humane, equitable, and peaceful nation and globe. As Dr. King said: “Everybody can be great, because anybody can serve."

Destiny's clock is ticking. Now is the time to act, before it is too late. Dr. King's legacy should be commemorated in a variety of ways. Rather than taking the King holiday entirely off, we should use it as a day to focus our nation's attention on preserving and protecting our democracy's most important right, the ability to vote and to pass federal voting rights legislation as soon as possible.

Montgomery Township Deputy Major Shelly L. Bell
Montgomery Township Deputy Major Shelly L. Bell

How to Make a Difference

Get out and make a difference in your community to commemorate the spirit of service.

If you are looking for idea for service on Monday, check out opportunities at websites for Americorps and Jersey Cares.

Another idea is to join the Racial Equity Initiative's live webinar on January 17 at 11 am. It's titled: "Just Discipline: An Antidote to the School-to-Prison Pipeline." For information and to register, go to:

Another form of service is to have essential talks with loved ones and members of your community to help create a more equal world. By involving others in the conversation, we can share and expand on our own knowledge.

At these times, I keep in mind the words of Dr. King, who said: “It is not possible to be in favor of justice for some people and not be in favor of justice for all people.”


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