Miami Gardens puts on peace rally and community resource fair
By Derek Joy
Miami Gardens kicked off the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., celebrations with a daylong series of events at the Betty T. Ferguson Community Center.
The event was planned some six months ago, before the recent upward spike in murders and violent crimes began plaguing Miami Gardens residents before allegations of police harassment and wrongdoing were made public.
Outside the center on the nippy Saturday, a police car was parked, displaying a distinct purpose in a message: “One person. One Decision. One Life. It takes one person to make one decision to change one life. Your life matters.”
A variety of alternatives to violence came into play at the peace rally and community resource fair.
There was a talent showcase, basketball skills challenge and the 12th Annual Sunshine Bowl with four semi-professional football teams participating. Teams from Charlotte, N.C., Cincinnati, Ohio, Bluemont, Va., and the Miami Knights participated.
“It’s a collaboration of people from the community came together,” said Mayor Oliver Gilbert III, who’s seen Miami Gardens hit by a string of murders and other violent crimes. “It’s something to kick off the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday.
“When Betty Ferguson and Shirley Gibson created the city and built this center, they intended for it to be used by the community. This event gives the city the opportunity to show people they can come live and thrive here.
“A lot of people use the word city. But its much bigger than that. It’s a community. That includes people, churches and businesses. That’s what we have here today,” added Gilbert.
Some 45 vendors participated, including radio stations HOT 105, 99 JAMZ, and BLAZE FM, Florida Department of Veterans Administration and Fatherhood Support Group and Florida State Senator Oscar Braynon II (Dem. Miami Gardens), among others.
The daylong event prompted a visitor from Virginia to note: “The weather here is different than back home.” And a visitor from North Carolina added: “It’s nice here.”
“I think this event exposes kids to a lot of activities they’re not normally exposed to,” said Councilman David Williams. It exposes them to teamwork, the kinds of activities that opens doors.
“This solidifies what we’re trying to do in Miami Gardens, which is to make it a destination city for people to come and prosper. And it shows kids that there’s more to get involved in than athletics.”
Councilman Dr. Erhabor Ighodaro, who migrated from his native Nigeria to Florida on a basketball scholarship to Florida Memorial University, where he is a now a professor, agreed with Williams.
“The beauty of nature in terms of what we have in South Florida can be seen in Miami Gardens. These kinds of things can be understood and appreciated by outsiders in a way residents don’t.
“As a former athlete, I know it takes discipline and a good work ethnic to win and be successful. If our kids can master these skills, they can translate into life to get in the game, stay in the game and stay on top of the game.”
The perception of this event in the eyes of Councilman Rodney Harris, adds to what Gilbert, Williams and Ighodaro expressed.
“I think this is a wonderful experience for residents and families to come and participate as a part of the solution and not the problem,” Harris said.
Said Miami Gardens Parks and Recreation Athletic Manager Rodney Best: “This brings an awareness to let people recognize what’s going on. We brought in former NFL players Trevor Ford and Khalil Jones to talk to kids to let them know there are alternatives to the streets.”