Half a century after the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s death, his message of unity, equality and love is still relevant. And while King’s dreams are still alive, the challenges facing a nation founded on the principles of freedom and justice for all still alive as well.
While MLK day should be recognized as a time of reflection, community service and unity, it is sometimes necessary to make the point that America still suffers from a lack of true equality through civil disobedience.
Last week, several historic African American organizations banded together to send a message to the Mayor of Jacksonville and public that equality is still a major issue in Northeast Florida. The group, which included the NAACP, Urban League, and SCLC broke away from the City of Jacksonville sponsored MLK breakfast and held their own – on the same day and at the same time.
In honor of the King holiday, several historic organization banded together to send a message to the Mayor of Jacksonville and public that equality is still a major issue in Northeast Florida. The group, which included the NAACP, Urban League and SCLC broke away from the City of Jacksonville sponsored MLK breakfast and held their own – on the same day and at the same time.
Organizers said that until the Mayor and city recognize that the city is not truly united and acknowledge that inequality still exists, they were no longer participating in a city-sponsored breakfast.
Both groups called their event the “32nd Annual MLK Breakfast,” and both affairs were sold out, but the City of Jacksonville breakfast brought out several protesters. Numerous people picketed and held signs that questioned Mayor Curry’s ethics, vision for the city and his lack of leadership.
There was no mention at the city breakfast of the protesting activists outside who were complaining about gun violence and what they viewed as Curry’s neglect of the Northside’s economic struggles.
“In Pursuit of Happyness” author Chris Gardner was the primary speaker at the city’s breakfast. Gardner, 64, talked about overcoming an absent father, abusive stepfather, homelessness and poverty to become a millionaire stockbroker, which inspired the autobiography and movie starring Will Smith.
“As great as that film was, it was about one year in my life, at [age] 28. There were 27 critical years before that,” he said.
Across the Main Street Bridge at the Lexington Hotel, the NAACP-led breakfast was at full capacity, as a sold out crowd heard a rousing speech from Rev. Frederick Douglass Haynes, III, of Friendship-West Baptist Church, Dallas, Texas. Haynes theme was directed to leaders of cities, states and nations who are using “Chaos over communities.”
“We’ve got to restructure America in order to redeem the soul of America,” Haynes said. “We’ve got to restructure it because there is something that is wrong with the structure of this country because it’s a structure that has produced unjust outcomes.”
No MLK holiday can be complete without a parade. Once again, thousands of citizens lined Bay and Water Streets to witness the annual King Day parade, which was filled with high school bands, king and queen courts, Greek organizations, community groups businesses, and local, state and elected officials.
Children excitedly waved to the parade participants as dozens of groups snaked their way along the parade route through downtown. Many local residents had the day off and spent time volunteering at local shelters and food banks.