Tammy Murphy reacts as her husband, Governor-elect Phil Murphy, calls her while she’s delivering a speech at Saturday’s Unity Rally in Red Bank. The event drew a full house to Pilgrim Baptist Church, below. (Photos by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)


Ignoring biting cold, dozens of Red Bank-area residents participated in a “unity” march and rally Saturday in honor of two civil rights champions: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and journalist T. Thomas Fortune.

Anchored at Pilgrim Baptist Church, the event featured a cameo appearance by the spouse of Governor-elect Phil Murphy as part of a whirlwind, pre-inaugural tour of New Jersey.

Gilda Rogers, who helped lead the effort to save the T. Thomas Fortune House for use as a cultural center, addresses the rally. Below, Mayor Pasquale Menna beside an image of Fortune, the civil rights activist and journalist who lived nearby a century ago. (Photos by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

The event featured calls for love and community action to continue King’s work in the face of resurgent racism and division nationally.

“Dr. King taught us that we don’t have to worry about our enemies in life,” Rabbi Marc Kline of the Monmouth Reform Temple told the crowd packed into the church’s basement community room. “We have to worry about our friends who remain silent in the face of hate.”

Gilda Rogers, an event organizer and vice president of the T. Thomas Fortune Foundation and Cultural Center, began her remarks by asking everyone in the audience to express love to someone seated nearby.

“It’s easy to spew hate,” she told the audience. “It should be even easier to tell someone you love them.”

Tammy Murphy, slated to become the state’s First Lady with the inauguration of her husband Phil Murphy, as governor on Tuesday, was among the speakers.

King, if he still lived, would surely see progress in terms of justice and equality, she told the audience, “but he would also see, as we all do, how far we still have to go.”

She quoted King: “If you can’t fly, then run. If you can’t run, then walk. If you can’t walk, then crawl. But whatever you do, do what you can to keep moving forward.”

Murphy chairs her husband’s inaugural committee, and her stop in Red Bank, just a short distance from their home across the Navesink River in Middletown, was part of a pre-swearing-in tour of the state to highlight transit concerns.

Starting together in Hoboken Saturday morning, the family split up, with the governor-elect heading off in one direction with two of their four children, and Tammy Murphy traveling with the other two, en route to an eventual meet-up at the end of the day in Cape May.

Her appearance here was lightened by an unexpected interruption. Reading her remarks from her cellphone, Murphy paused and laughed.

“You can’t make this up,” she told the audience. “I just had my husband calling. I decided I wouldn’t answer it.”