gua: Recognizing past activist and the future 'Dream'

Published: Thursday, January 14, 2010 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 13, 2010 at 4:22 p.m.

It was freezing outside but warmth, honor and respect ruled the evening at the Martin Luther King Jr. 25th annual Hall of Fame Banquet, sponsored by the Martin Luther King Jr. Commission of Florida, Inc.

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Recipient of the Edna M. Hart Keeper of the Dream Award 2010, Benjamin Osoba laughs with MLK Commission of Florida Founder and President Rodney Long before Osoba is presented with his college scholarship.

Brad McClenny/Special to the Guardian

In his keynote speech, Florida Senator Anthony C. "Tony" Hill, D-Jacksonville, addressed the theme, "Living the Dream, Preserving the Legacy," and stressed the need for all of us to put service before self.

"We talk about living the dream, and there are only a few of us living the dream," Hill said. "We're so caught up in self and I. We have to take our eyes off ourselves and put them on someone else."

Nearly 285 men and women attended the banquet to honor King's legacy, and to recognize those who have continued to struggle to preserve it.

The banquet was held Sunday at the Paramount Resort and Conference Center. Several past recipients of the Edna M. Hart Keeper of the Dream Scholarship award participated in the program including attorney Chris Chestnut, a 1998 recipient who presided over the banquet; Malcolm Kiner, a 1996 recipient, recognized elected, county officials, and members of the King Commission Board of Directors. Minister Chris Polke, a 1999 recipient, delivered the invocation and blessed the food. Erin Shell, a 1994 recipient, recognized each of the 30 former 'Keeper of the Dream' recipients. Musical entertainment was provided by recording artist Billy Rogers. The benediction was given by Rev. Adrian Weeks, chaplain of the King Commission.

Carolyn Spikes and Diyonne McGraw, King Commission Scholarship and Education committee members, recognized Benjamin Osoba as the 2010 Edna M. Hart Keeper of the Dream Scholarship Recipient. Benjamin, a senior in the IB program at Eastside High School, was awarded $7,500 to be distributed equally over four years. The Edna M. Hart Keeper of the Dream Scholarship rewards high school seniors who demonstrate personal integrity, academic achievement, spiritual development, creativity and community service. Benjamin also delivered the welcome and occasion at the banquet.

Rodney J. Long, president of King Commission, said that on 1989, the first year the Edna M. Hart Keeper of the Dream Scholarship was awarded, the recipient received $500; and in recent years recipients received no less than $2,500.

"This is a new decade and we're setting the bar higher," said Long, adding this year's Edna M. Heart Keeper of the Dream Scholarship sponsors included Publix Supermarket, Shands HealthCare and Gainesville Regional Utilities.

Jacquelyn J. Hart, King Commission Director Emeritus, and Marie Small, King Commission executive director, recognized Daniel Harmeling as the 2010 Hall of Fame Award Recipient. The Hall of Fame award is an honor reserved for those who fought the fight during the civil rights movement. Harmeling, a retired teacher who now teaches part-time at Santa Fe College and Bethune-Cookman University's Gainesville campus, talked about his involvement in the fight for civil rights in the 1960s, and recognized his twin brother, the late Jim Harmeling, as well as University of Florida students and faculty who also fought the fight and were persecuted for their activities, and even suspended from the university.

Ed Jennings Jr., former chairman of the Florida Conference of Black State Legislators and former member of the Florida House of Representatives, introduced Hill. "He (Hill) lives the dream everyday, and is living the legacy," Jennings said.

Hill said that although it's the law, black history is not being taught in Florida schools, and called for recruiting black males to teach in elementary schools, where they can have a greater impact on children.

"I'm convinced that when we reach out we can make a difference," said Hill. "There's not a talent deficit, only an opportunity deficit."

"Our focus should be 'Can we take our eyes off ourselves and put them on others,' " Hill said.

Chestnut encouraged those in attendance to bring their children to the banquet next year.

"I encourage you to reach back and bring the children," Chestnut said. "They're the ones that need to hear the history and the legacy."

In closing, Long bestowed the King Commission President's Award to Diyonne McGraw for "outstanding dedication."

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