WEST PALM BEACH – As Palm Beach County Commissioner Priscilla Taylor hosted the first annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. “State of the Dream” Community Meeting, she said it is time to re-evaluate the ideology behind King’s dream considering the issues in society today.
“There’s been a lot of changes, some good and some bad. But now it’s up to us,” Taylor said during the event held Thursday, Jan. 17 at the county governmental center in West Palm Beach. “The purpose of tonight is to take a look at that dream and see where we are in relationship to it.”
Taylor said she would like to see the gap with the economy, diversity and jobs parity become less evident.
Other area MLK Holiday events included Palm Beach State College’s 14th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Breakfast on Jan. 17, where civil rights attorney Morris Dees, who has fought racism for decades as co-founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Ala., was the keynote speaker for hundreds at the Duncan Theatre in Lake Worth. The college also presented its annual Martin Luther King Leadership Awards to individuals who are making a difference in the community.
In addition, the Martin Luther King Jr. Coordinating Committee hosted its 32nd annual Scholarship Breakfast on Jan. 19 at the Palm Beach County Convention Center, while similar activities took place from Delray Beach to Royal Palm to Beach Belle Glade, and Riviera Beach’s annual King Holiday parade was another highlight.
Terriel Byrd, Palm Beach Atlantic University professor and campus minister, noted at the “State of the Dream” session that King worked tirelessly for freedom and justice for every citizen. “Martin Luther King was called upon to proclaim his vision for liberty, to extend it to all people,” he said.
Bryd also alluded to the Sandy Hook Elementary mass shooting massacre of 20 young children and six adult educators.
“Recently we’ve been reminded of King’s message and the importance of a non-violent strategy,” he said. “We have romanticized the ‘I have a dream,’ speech. We need to establish the dream once again.”
Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher said that developing the local economy and providing adequate voting opportunities for constituents is pivotal in continuing with King’s dream.
“We need to start talking about economic development in the communities that are in Palm Beach County and move it forward,” she said.
Bucher said it is a positive sign that in Palm Beach County there are many African-American elected officials but the lack of early voting may hinder progress.
“A lot of African-Americans vote early. I’m going to lobby to reinstitute the early voting program on the first Sunday (before the election), stop disenfranchising the community,” she said. “Many of my colleagues throughout the state don’t support that.”
U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, D – FL20, said it is important to remember King’s dream and the sacrifices of many others who paid the price for our freedoms.
“Regrettably, black Americans (in general) have spent a lot of time looking for Martin (Luther King Jr.) in all the wrong places,” he said. “Long before there was a Martin Luther King Jr., there was a Sojourner Truth, a Phyllis Wheatley, a Harriet Tubman and a Nat Turner and a Frederick Douglass. Martin understood that he was standing on their shoulders.”
Hastings said reflecting on the dream of King to have the country come together as one can be applied to the current needs of the nation.
“With the divisions in our society today, let’s take the gun issue alone, to show how divided (the nation) is,” he said. “Anything a public official or community activist can do to bring people together is more than meaningful.”
Mike Barnett, vice-chairman of the Palm Beach County Republican Executive Committee, said civil rights should be viewed as a nonpartisan issue.
“It’s important that we remember what (King) did for black people and this country. (King) focused on the content of character rather than the color of skin,” he said. “It’s important that people understand the history of the Civil Rights Movement. There were Republicans and Democrats involved in the struggle. It’s not a partisan thing.”
Lynne Hubbard, president of the Florida Democratic Black Caucus – the Palm Beach County Call to Action Chapter, said there are many things that should have been accomplished since King laid out his vision for civil rights in this country.
“It’s important that we continue to reiterate King’s dream and to look at where we are now compared to when he was on the battlefield,” Hubbard said. “That should give us cause and reason to want to continue the struggle and say, ‘We can do a whole lot better.’”