Former Mayor Shirley Gibbons
Councilman David Williams, Jr. and State Rep. Sharon Pritchett.
By Derek Joy
It is a neophyte when compared to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Holiday celebrations in Miami, Florida City, Perrine and other locations in Miami Dade County.
Still, the MLK Holiday celebrations staged by the city of Miami Gardens conveyed the legacy of King’s body of work as well, if not better than its municipal counterparts.
The MLK weekend celebration had many highlights that were punctuated by Saturday’s series of events at the Betty T. Ferguson Recreation Complex as Florida State Representative Sharon Pritchett, (Dem., Dist. 102), looked on.
There was an array of displays that embraced religion, family, business, entertainment, sports, a display of auto-mobiles for sale by Miami Lakes Auto /Jeep Mall and more. Each as a direct reflection of King’s legacy fashioned in his Non-Violent Civil Rights Movement of the 1950’s and 1960’s.
“My thinking is that my whole vision is this city would have a good foundation, continue to grow and prosper,” said former Mayor Shirley Gibson, who help lead the movement to incorporate Miami Gardens.
“I’m very proud of what I see. I hope it will continue to grow. My motto is, if you can’t do it first class, don’t do it at all. It isn’t perfect. Nobody, nothing is. But I like the progress this city has made since it was incorporated in 2003,” added Gibson, who was its first Mayor.
Radio Station HOT105 personality Rick Party entertained the audience, intertwined between performances by modern dance groups, martial arts demonstrations and other entertainment.
Inside the complex, five to 15 year olds competed in a basketball tournament, while other youth engaged in dramatic performances and other educational activities. And there was football on the field outside: The XIII Annual Sunshine Bowl Championships, founded by Jesse and Mercedes Wiggins. “Yes, I marched with them to the Lincoln Memorial,” said Mercedes Wiggins, a native of Washington, D.C., recalling the historic “I Have A Dream Speech” delivered by King on Aug. 28, 1963.
“Oh, my God, yes. It was exciting. We were at the Lincoln Memorial. He could have told us to jump off buildings and we would have done it. It was so inspiring. I hung onto his every word.
“I look at things now and the way they were. The closest thing to it is when President Barack Obama was elected the first time (2008). All those people weren’t just Black. They’re all racists there.”
That was the setting during Miami Gardens’ MLK Holiday celebrations. Multiple races took part. “I think events like this here and around the country bring reality of how we need to conduct business. Economically, we need to conduct business better,” said Miami Gardens Councilman David Williams, Jr.
“We really need to be smarter, learn and use computer skills, development different careers. We definitely need to develop better parenting skills, get parents more involved in the lives of their children and in the community. We can say things all day, but if they go home and hear different things it doesn’t help.”
Harry T. Upshaw, a Miami Gardens resident and marketing director of the North Dade Community Federal Credit Union said: “I think this is excellent. It reflects everyday life. Black people knowing about our past is a good thing. Take a 15-year-old male. It’s hard for him to imagine what we had to go through 50 years ago just to vote.
This even it’s going to have an effect on some of these kids.
It’s going to touch some of them.”
Equally important in the impact of this event as it relates to the legacy of King can be perceived in the perspective shared by Williams. “We need to hold elected officials accountable. And that’s what we do not do,” concluded Williams.