martin_luther_king_jr_web.jpgPOMPANO BEACH –The Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration in Pompano Beach was centered on the youth. Despite rain, thousands of young people marched alongside adults on Monday in a parade to commemorate the life and work of the slain civil rights leader.

The theme, “We Are Better Together,” was demonstrated throughout the community by a huge turnout of residents, said City Commissioner Woodrow Poitier.

“This is the one time the community is definitely together and you can see the pride and enthusiasm,” Poitier said. “Whether or not we are reaching the ones we need to, I do not know, but we certainly had a good turn out.”

Joyce Jackson, president of the city’s MLK Memorial Committee, agreed that the annual event, which kicked off at Mitchell Moore Park, has intensified since it began more than 20 years ago.

“It has grown,” said Jackson. “There are a lot more young people out than I’ve seen in a while.”

Led by the blazing orange-and-green school colors of the Blanche Ely High marching band, children from KinderWorld Preschool, Wesley's Girls Club and a number of various churches, dressed in bright colors, marched down Northwest Eighth Avenue onto Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, some with placards that read “I Am A Promise.”

“It’s great to see all the different organizations, from sororities and fraternities to Masonites, churches and all the different people out here to celebrate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.,” state Sen. Christopher “Chris” Smith, D-District 29, said in an interview.

The hour-long parade ended at Blanche Ely High School, where the gymnasium was transformed into a gospel church service. Tyeshia Woodson, 10, set the audience afire with a heart-warming rendition of the national anthem.

“That is exactly what Dr. King stood for, young people like that who can sing and be proud in the country and have peace and unity,” Mayor Lamar Fisher said after the thunderous applause.

Twenty-five years ago, the nation honored King by designating the third Monday in January a national holiday. In an address to Monday’s gathering, Fisher said the country had been privileged to have a man who had made a difference and left a mark that would forever be continued in the hearts of Americans.

“The wonderful thing about this is, every year, we can come together and celebrate his life and his accomplishments,” Fisher said.

The program featured music and entertainment from neighborhood churches and the Bethune-Cookman University Gospel Choir.

In an address, the guest speaker, the Rev. Eddy Moise, pastor of Bethel AME Church, said that the nation was still far from realizing the dream King fought for.

“Here we are, some 40-plus years later, in Blanche Ely High gym, and we still have some challenges that we face that are somewhat similar challenges,” Moise said. “When we have young people who are falling behind, those who stand on street corners, my beloved, we have a problem and I believe we are facing a problem that is detrimental not only to us as individuals but as a community.”

For Xavier Eubanks, a ninth grade student at Northeast High, the city’s attempt to pass on King's vision to young people was welcome but more could be done year-round.

“It was inspiring. I got a lot out of it,” Xavier said. “But I think we need things like assemblies in school where we can get together and talk about black history and be more involved.”

Tracy-Ann Taylor may be reached at