The Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Jacksonville, Florida hosted their annual Black Tie Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Dinner and Awards Program for legends, pioneers and trailblazers last weekend. The keynote speaker was Dr. C.T. Vivian, a close aide to Dr. King. He was considered the strategist and a fearless spiritual leader during the civil rights movement. Along with an award from the SCLC of Jacksonville, Vivian was also given a key to the city by Mayor Alvin Brown. C.T. Vivian was introduced to the audience by another civil rights icon, fellow honoree J.T. Johnson. J.T. was one of the young people fighting to integrate pools in St. Augustine at the Monson Motor Lodge. Many will remember that acid was thrown into the pool by a segregationist as Johnson and other activists swam.
“When Dr. King received the Nobel Peace Prize, he wore a tailed tuxedo,” says SCLC President, Opio Sokoni. “Why not honor Dr. King by dressing up in our best to give awards to those who are currently carrying on the dream of the man who embodied peace,” says Sokoni. The theme for the evening was, “New Leadership and a New Generation Carrying the Torch.” Opio Sokoni, a young and successful activist with many talents, is the new president and graduate of Howard University School of Law. The evening’s activities included a riveting prayer by a young and brilliant Bradford Hall, followed by songs from Evangelist Catrice Caldwell and group C by 3. The evening was highlighted by civil rights videos and words that reminded the crowd of over 200 that racism is not over.
Honorees included: Dr. C.T. Vivian, J.T. Johnson, Pastor R. L. Gundy, Terry Gilliam (President’s Dedicated Member Award), Dr. Chester Aikens (Posthumous), The Church of Jacksonville, Ernest Davis and the Voo Swar Restaurant and Lounge, Dr. Michael Hallett, Atty. Neil Henrichsen, Jacksonville Progressive Coalition, Reverend Dr. E.I. Norman, Northwest Jacksonville Community Development Corporation, Pastor Landon Williams and the City of St. Augustine.