Rep. Frederica Wilson hosts MLK Nonviolence Forum
By Derek Joy
Congresswoman Frederica Wilson, (Dem., Dist. 24) returned to the Joseph Caleb Center Auditorium to host a Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Non-violence Forum some 20 years after her first such event.
Wilson’s event, in conjunction with the Miami Dade County Juvenile Services Department and her 5000 Role Models of Excellence, gained added impact from a panel of notable guests.
“Children are still dying. Adults are still dying. And there’s no end in sight,” said program moderator Rodney Baltimore of radio station HOT 105. “What we now know is that you don’t have to be involved in crime to be a victim of violence.”
The focus was clearly conveyed in a stop the violence, nonviolent approach to life. Such was the message of each panelist Wilson invited to speak.
Featured speaker Charles S. Dutton, the Tony-nominated, Emmy Award winning actor, was joined on the panel by Candyce Haynes, Queen Brown, Chanae Forshee, Jo-Marie Payton, and Miami’s own inter-nationally known recording artist, Betty Wright.
“We’re here today Because I wanted to have a forum to address violence,” said Wilson. “I had one of these forums 20 years ago when my program was 500 Role Models of Excellence. Roc (Charles S. Dutton) was the featured speaker.
“That was when they were having the smash and grab robberies and killing tourists. We started having these forums and the violence stopped. It was quiet for a while. And all of sudden violence broke out – especially in Miami Gardens.”
In the time Wilson’s program has gone from 500 to 5,000, violence has had its topsy turvy trend. As Wilson noted, the violence against tourists grabbed international media attention.
As that trend all but faded into relative obscurity, the violence against youth has seen an upward spike. Miami Gar-dens has been the most recent center of attention because of the recurring shootings and murders.
“I used to be a hardcore, hard-hearted guy. Once you make the decision to change, all kinds of things happen,” Dutton said.
The message was driven home by each speaker. Each had unique circumstances that added essence their words.
Equally important is that each speaker conveyed the need to take responsibility for one’s own actions. What’s more is that each panelist spoke of the need to create more programs
to intervene and mentor youth.
“I’d like to see a better line
of communications established for this forum,” said Ronald Fulton, a quadriplegic who attended the forum. “I saw this expensive, armored police vehicle the other day. They spend money on that but won’t spend money on programs to help children prevent violence.”
Forshee had a 12-year-old niece shot and killed some five months ago. Brown’s 24-year-old son was murdered seven years ago. Wright’s 21-year-old son was murdered on Christmas Eve in 2005, while she was on a cruise.
“Dr. King believed in non-violence. He believed it takes more courage not to fight with violence. And that is how we want to honor him today,” said Wilson.