King celebration kicks off Sunday

State Sen. Tony Hill will be the keynote speaker at this year's Hall of Fame banquet.

Published: Thursday, January 7, 2010 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 7, 2010 at 12:02 a.m.

State Sen. Tony Hill will be the keynote speaker at Sunday's 25th annual Hall of Fame Banquet in Gainesville, a signature event of the 2010 King Celebration sponsored by the Martin Luther King Jr. Commission of Florida.

Rodney Long, president of the King Commission, said Hill will discuss the celebration's theme, "Living the Dream - Preserving the Legacy."

"Sen. Hill will speak about the people who were part of the civil rights struggle," Long said. "He can inspire the next generation and rejuvenate those who fought the fight."

The banquet will be held at 6 p.m. Sunday at the Paramount Plaza Hotel and Conference Center, 2900 S.W. 13th St. Tickets are $65 each and must be purchased in advance.

Hill, D-Jacksonville, was first elected to the Florida Senate in 2002 and before that was a member of the state House of Representatives from 1992-2000.

His accomplishments include spearheading a successful effort culminating in the Florida Senate passing a resolution formally apologizing for the Florida Legislature's long support of slavery and expressing Florida's regret for the shameful chapter in its history.

Hill, along with other Florida legislators, was instrumental in having the legislature examine the state song, "Old Folks at Home," as a song that was demeaning to African-Americans. It was written by Stephen Foster.

As a result, Long said "Florida: Where the Sawgrass Meets the Sky," by Florida music teacher Jan Hinton, was selected as the state song.

Another highlight of the banquet will be the recognition of the 2010 Hall of Fame honoree and the 2010 Edna M. Hart Keeper of the Dream Scholarship Award. Daniel Harmeling, a Gainesville civil rights activist, will be inducted into the Hall of Fame, and Benjamin Osoba, a senior at Eastside High School, is the recipient of the scholarship.

"The Hall of Fame recognizes local citizens who have demonstrated non-violence in the fight for social change," said Long, "and the Keeper of the Dream scholarship recognizes seniors we believe will become leaders of tomorrow."

Banquet tickets, which will not be available at the door, can be purchased by calling Jacquelyn J. Hart at 376-2442 or from any member of the King Commission board of directors.

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