benjamin-bailey_web.jpgCassandra Stephenson has celebrated Martin Luther King Jr.’s birth anniversary for a quarter century by joining the annual King parade in her Liberty City community in Miami-Dade County. This year, she took her 5-year-old grandson Anthony Bellas to the parade on Monday, hoping the sight of the colorful floats would excite him enough to make him want to come in the years ahead and, like her, be inspired to dream.

Richard Baker, 31, has attended the parade since he was 10. He brought his daughter Eyoni, 3, who sat on her father’s shoulders, and Asia, 12.

King, Asia told a reporter, “was a good person. He tried to bring people together.” Farther north, Jean Gordon of Oakland Park, who has attended the King parade in Broward County from the beginning, brought her grandchildren Khaleed, 5, and Kailey, 3.

“I want them to become aware of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his contributions,” Gordon said. “I want them to identify who is in the community so they can identify what they want to be a part of when they are older.”

Audrey Barnes of Pembroke Pines took her daughters Sydney, 8, and Symone, 4, to a volunteer event at the African American Research Library and Cultural Center and the Reverend Samuel Delevoe Memorial Park and Community Center in Fort Lauderdale on Saturday as a part of the HandsOn Broward Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service and Remembrance.

She wanted, she said, to expose them to the values that community service has taught her.

“It’s important to expose children early to community service,” Barnes said, “It builds compassion, humbleness and respect for people in general.”

The day of service allowed organizations geared towards children and young adults to give of their time in the service of others.

“We are trying to develop leaders,” said Raye White, program director of the Jack and Jill of America Fort Lauderdale chapter.

White said her organization brought around 100 people, many of them young children and teenagers, to the day of service. “To become an effective leader, they must become service leaders,” White said.

ShaRen Wray, 18, of Boca Raton, a student at Florida Atlantic University, was among many who helped paint the outside of the community center.

“I have a heart to help people,” Wray said. “This day is up my alley. If you bring everyone together, it allows the community to grow.”

Inside the African American Research Library and Cultural Center, children and teenagers wrote their goals on paper which they stuck to an “I Have a Dream” board while others made chew toys for rescued pets.

In West Palm Beach, civil rights activist and retired educator Edith Bush said to organizers of the 33rd annual MLK Scholarship Breakfast held at the Palm Beach County Convention Center Monday, those who marched in the Civil Rights Movement “wanted to keep before the community the struggles of the Civil Rights Movement through artistic and cultural experiences for our children.”

Bush and her Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Coordinating Committee have organized a scholarship breakfast for more than three decades. The aim, she said, is to impart King’s teachings to youth in order to continue the legacy of civil rights, equality and economic enrichment for every individual.

She said that prior to the breakfast the committee sponsors King-inspired youth competitions in art, essay writing, oratorical skill, the performing arts, poetry and photography.

The keynote speaker this year was the Rev. Jeremiah Chester, who received his ministerial degree from Princeton University and is a product of the local oratorical competitions.

Chester stressed the importance of education in making children well-rounded individuals. 

“Education [aims] to make a child who’s never believed in themselves believe they can do something they’ve never done before,” he said.

A parade in Riviera Beach featured school bands as well as students from the city’s two charter schools, Inlet Grove High and the Riviera Beach Maritime Academy, which do not have marching bands. Several ministries and churches joined the parade, along with youth groups from sororities and fraternities. Many youths wore T-shirts with the word “Freedom,” some as young as 3.

Youth and violence was the topic at the 23rd annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Commemorative Breakfast held at Florida International University’s Dr. Modesto Madique Campus in west Miami-Dade County.  Some 3,000 people, including community leaders, educators and students heard a rousing and often entertaining speech by civil rights activist and

keynote speaker Clarence Jones, who helped draft King’s famous “I Have a Dream Speech” delivered during the March on Washington in 1963. Jones spoke out against gun violence, reminding the gathering of King’s message of using non-violence to combat hatred. “Someone has to say enough is enough is enough,” Jones said. “Violence is not a solution to restore peace.”

Youth and violence was also the focus of a panel discussion hosted by Congresswoman Frederica S. Wilson, D-Fla., in conjunction with her 5000 Role Models of Excellence Project, the Miami-Dade County Juvenile Services Department and local activists.

Around 150 people turned out at the Joseph Caleb Center in Liberty City to hear remarks by a star panel that included actors Charles Dutton and JoMarie Payton and local singer Betty Wright, along with community activist Queen Brown and Chanae Forshee, aunt of 12-year-old Tequilla Forshee who was killed by a stray bullet last August at her Miami Gardens home.

The annual observance of the 28th annual Dr, Martin Luther King Jr., national holiday which culminated on Monday with parades in South Florida cities and across the nation, honored the civil rights leader assassinated on April 4, 1968, in Memphis, Tenn. He would have been 85 on Jan. 15.

This year, the city of Riviera Beach handed out annual awards. Cynthia Morrow was named Citizen of the Year, Julius Whigham was picked as Senior Citizen of the Year and Keiondra Marshall was chosen as Youth of the Year.

Recently retired NAACP president/CEO Benjamin Jealous was the featured speaker at the Palm Beach State Community College’s 15th annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Celebration Breakfast at its Lake Worth campus on Jan. 16.

During the event, awards were presented to Estella Pyfrom, who used her retirement money to create the Estella’s Brilliant Bus program which features a converted bus equipped with computers to help bridge the technology gap; George Gentile, a landscape architect and planner who co-founded the Juvenile Diabetes Association of Palm Beach County; and Nephtalie Jean, a student at the college who volunteers for organizations such as the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. The People Engaged in Active Community Efforts (PEACE) organization was also honored at the breakfast.

Malcolm Shields reported from Broward County, Erick Johnson from Miami-Dade County and Daphne Taylor and Kyoto Walker from Palm Beach County.

Picture above:

MAKING HIS MARK:  Benjamin Bailey, 9, of Weston creates a Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.-themed bookmark at the African American Research Library and Cultural Center in Fort Lauderdale during the HandsOn Broward 2014 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service and Remembrance on Saturday.