New Jersey volunteers honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

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Monday, January 16, 2023
New Jersey volunteers honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
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The group has made it their mission to maintain the historic cemetery throughout the year, but on this day, they remembered the work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as they worked.

CAMDEN, New Jersey (WPVI) -- Volunteers spent part of their morning at Butler Cemetery in Camden, the resting place of eight African American veterans who fought in the Civil War.

"It's very meaningful to all of us who have served. Very meaningful that Butler Dempsey started this being an abolitionist, and it connects the dots -- abolition and civil rights and things of that nature," said Rev. Floyd White III, president of the Woodland Community Development Corporation.

The group has made it their mission to maintain the historic cemetery throughout the year, but on this day, they remembered the work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as they worked.

"It's just a pleasure that the Black community is trying to come back and clean up," said veteran Curtis Marshall of Camden.

At Camden County College's Camden City Campus, more than 150 people showed up in hopes of having their criminal records expunged.

"Many people with convictions are not eligible, but many are. Many who don't even realize that they are," said attorney John Stapleton of LeVan Stapleton Segal Cochran LLC.

To find out, clients sat with volunteer attorneys from the Volunteer Up Legal Clinic.

Edgard Renaud, of Cherry Hill, came in and started the process to clear loitering charges from more than 10 years ago.

"This is actually quite life-changing for me. And I'm sure a few people in those other rooms, they seem very antsy to get into this room, so I wish them all the best," said Renaud.

To expunge a non-violent crime in New Jersey, a person typically needs to have a clean record for five to ten years, and the county prosecutor has to approve the expungement.

County officials say expungement gives people a chance to pursue more opportunities like better jobs or education.

"To give them that second chance, so to speak. To lose the weight of a criminal conviction, which keeps them impaired for most of their lives," said Jeff Nash, Camden County Commissioner and founding member of the Volunteer Up Legal Clinic.

Stapleton says seeing how so many people have already turned their lives around is inspiring.

"Obviously we get joy from the expungement itself, but just sitting and talking and saying, what are you doing with your life right now? And the ways that they're giving back already - it's powerful," he said.

This was Camden County's first expungement clinic in honor of MLK Day.

Organizers here say given the turnout, they hope to make this an annual event.