Lloyd Blunk via Unsplash

This past Monday, the same day as our national holiday honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, I was shocked to hear garbage being picked up on our streets in Montclair.

I did not lose sight of the fact that the night before his assassination in April 1968, MLK spoke to a group of striking sanitation workers in Memphis, Tennessee, in what would become his “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” address.

His visit was in response to two Memphis garbage collectors, Echol Cole and Robert Walker, who were crushed to death by a malfunctioning truck. The city’s response to this incident was minimal, symbolic to a long pattern of neglect and abuse of its black employees, and led to 1,300 black men from the Memphis Department of Public Works going on strike.

For whatever the reason, it was a mistake that Montclair chose to keep garbage collection on this important day of celebration and reflection. These actions do not represent our community — and certainly our own garbage collectors, many of whom are African American, deserve to have MLK Day be a paid holiday. Hopefully, by calling this out publicly, our town administration can do better next year.




(Editor’s note: The writer of this letter is married to Matthew Frankel, a member of Montclair Local’s board of trustees.)

Laura Linn
Montclair


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