larry-handfield_web.jpgSpecial to South Florida Times

Miami attorney Larry Handfield had an unexpected meeting with a student in Washington, D.C., where he was among the first speakers during a rally Aug. 28  marking the 47th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” speech.

His address led to his meeting with Leah Carr, of  southeast Washington, D.C., now in her senior year at Dunbar High School who, like Handfield, had grown up without a father.

He learned that Carr is a track star with a 3.5 GPA and a desire to attend Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach, whose board of trustees Handfield chairs. He was so touched by her story that he immediately awarded her a four-year scholarship that could be worth almost $100,000.

This was one of the little known stories to come out of the rally and march held 47 years after King stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and delivered his “I have a Dream” speech about his vision of a united America.

Dunbar High, the Washington, D.C-based first public high school for black students, was the site of the rally where Handfield, Civil Rights activist Al Sharpton, television host Tom Joyner and Morehouse College President Robert Franklin  and others spoke to inspire a younger generation to reclaim King’s dream.

“We’ve come a long way. This generation is fulfilling his dream by seeing that it’s not about color, it’s about coming together,” said Lila Johnson of Service Employees International Union.

The rally was the first of two events that marked the anniversary of  the speech.  A march followed, from Dunbar High to the Lincoln Memorial.

“Martin Luther King had a quote that said, ‘Even if I’m not here to see it, I’m going to plant my apple tree.’ And I think as young people we need to plant a tree of love, justice and peace,” said Howard University student activist Melech Thomas.

Though the message at the rally was justice, peace, unity and reclaiming the dream, controversy surrounded the observance of the historic occasion.

Conservative radio and television host Glenn Beck organized a much larger competing rally at the Lincoln Memorial,  called “Restoring Honor.”

Beck had been under heavy criticism for hosting his rally on the anniversary and for comments surrounding it. In a recent broadcast of his FoxNews show, to defend his plan, he said “whites don't own Abraham Lincoln, blacks don't own Martin Luther King.”

Beck said that his rally was intended to “celebrate America” and “for too long [America] had wandered in the darkness.”

Sharpton accused Beck of attempting to “flip the imagery of Dr. King.”

“We are marching about something that we live every day. We keep this going so that our children can have a better life than us,” Sharpton said. “We’ve made a lot of progress but [the dream] has not been achieved. Let’s not mistake progress with arrival. [Beck and his supporters] may have the platform but we have the dream,” Sharpton said.

The crowd included people from different generations standing  beside one another  and chanting, “People united will never be divided.”  Black, whites and Hispanics marched together down Jersey Avenue on the way to The Lincoln Memorial as a symbolic reclaiming King’s dream.

“Civil Rights never died. There’s still no justice or equality. We still have a tremendous way to go. And rallies like this should be all across the nation. Because of lack of equality for all, it’s a people issue, not just a black issue,” said Richard Teems, regional head of the Western Region of the Teamster s union.

Photo: Larry Handfield