By Donald WittkowskiGospel music, prayers and expressions of hope filled the auditorium Saturday during Ocean City’s 27th annual celebration of the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.But the keynote speaker, the Rev. Darwin Ransom of the St. Paul Baptist Church in Vineland, delivered cautionary remarks about economic and racial equality in America by repeatedly asking the question, “Are we there yet?”“I like what I see here in Ocean City. This should be a beacon for others,” Ransom said while looking at the racially mixed audience and a diverse group of political, religious and civic leaders on stage at the Hughes Performing Arts Center at Ocean City High School.Ransom quoted from scripture and King’s historic “I Have a Dream” speech from 1963 while calling for peace, racial harmony, justice and economic equality.“Even though we still face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream,” Ransom said.Rev. Darwin Ransom, of the St. Paul Baptist Church in Vineland, said more needs to be done to achieve Dr. King’s “dream.”He denounced the wave of police shootings of unarmed black men across the country as well as alleged racially biased legislative efforts in the South to suppress the voting votes of minorities.He said now is the time to lift the nation out of the “racial quicksand” that continues to hinder African Americans and other minorities from achieving economic and judicial parity with whites.“Heaven’s not segregated, the last time I read the Bible,” Ransom said amid applause from the audience.Mayor Jay Gillian told the audience that Ocean City’s diversity helps to make it special.Mayor Jay Gillian, who spoke before Ransom, said Ocean City’s diversity has given the town its “specialness” and symbolizes the ideals that King stood for as an advocate for civil rights.“We don’t have to look toward Washington or Trenton to continue Dr. King’s work here in Ocean City,” Gillian said.The mayor noted that it is his hope for 2017 that city officials will embrace King’s dream to solidify Ocean City as “a beloved community.”Attended by hundreds of local residents, as well as dozens of dignitaries, the King ceremony included special honors for three Ocean City leaders for their contributions to the community.Leroy Robertson, an Ocean City resident for more than 55 years and a trustee at Macedonia United Methodist Church, was praised for comforting the sick over the years, including visiting with them and helping them with their shopping.Sgt. Tyrone Rolls, an Ocean City police officer for 21 years, was honored for his work as a youth mentor and athletic coach. Among the handshakes and hugs that were exchanged on stage, Rolls was given a particularly warm embrace by Cape May County Freeholder E. Marie Hayes, who lives in Ocean City.Also honored was the Rev. Marcia Stanford, pastor of Macedonia United Methodist Church. She was lauded for leading local food and clothing drives that help needy families.Rev. Marcia Stanford, of the Macedonia United Methodist Church, and Ocean City Police Sgt. Tyrone Rolls were honored for their community contributions.Honors were also given to Ocean City Intermediate School students Grace Thompson, Samantha Wagner and Erik Wagner for their winning essays about King’s life. Reading from her essay, Samantha Wagner, said that King left everyone with “an imprint of peace and justice.” In his essay, Erik Wagner, who is not related to Samantha Wagner, spoke of the personal freedoms espoused by King and how the civil rights leader’s legacy has influenced his life. Thompson was not at the ceremony.The program closed with the St. James AME Church Combined Gospel Chorus and Friends of Atlantic City leading the audience in a rendition of “We Shall Overcome,” which served as the anthem of America’s civil rights movement.On Monday, Ocean City will mark the formal Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. national holiday with its traditional communitywide cleanup from 9 a.m. to noon. Volunteers who want to participate in the cleanup are asked to meet at the Ocean City Community Center at 18th Street and Simpson Avenue at 9 a.m. for their assignments. Members of the St. James AME Church Combined Gospel Chorus and Friends led the ceremony in song.