Preserving his legacy

March on Monday honors life of Dr. King


Members of the alumni and undergrad chapters of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc. make their way east on University Avenue during the annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. march. King also was a member of the fraternity.

DOUG FINGER/Special to the Guardian
Published: Thursday, January 21, 2010 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 20, 2010 at 3:14 p.m.

The highlight of the local national holiday kick-off program came when the keynote speaker urged all members of the community to live Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream and preserve his legacy by simply serving.

Benjamin Obafemi Osoba, the winner of the Martin Luther King Jr. Commission of Florida Inc. 2010 Edna M. Hart Keeper of the Dream Award, delivered his speech to hundreds of people gathered Monday afternoon at the Bo Diddley Downtown Plaza.

He talked about how certain aspects of King's dream have become reality, while also talking about what needs to be done to preserve the legacy of King, who would have turned 81 on Jan. 15 had he not been slain April 4, 1968, on the balcony of the Lorraine Hotel in Memphis, Tenn.

"First, I want us to take a moment to look on where we have come from since the days of Dr. King," said Benjamin, a 17-year-old senior at Eastside High School, who will be attending Florida A&M University in the fall. "Our public schools and facilities have been fully integrated, every business and workplace is now considered an equal opportunity institution and we have lived to see the first African-American president of the United States of America - President Barack Hussein Obama."

After citing those facts, Benjamin then asked the question, "Are we truly living the dream of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr?"

He then spoke about the low academic performance of many black students, and other students as well, the economic situation in the black community and other underserved communities and the need for all Americans to work together in their communities to help Obama keep "this nation in its lofty position."

He said the most important thing Americans can do is serve their communities by becoming tutors and mentors and becoming more conscious of the environment. He also urged people to help the earthquake victims in Haiti in any way they can.

At the end of his 25-minute speech, Benjamin told the crowd to serve in anyway they can, become leaders within their communities and do what they can to live King's dream and preserve his legacy.

Thashea Miles, a University of Florida freshman and the 2009 Keeper of the Dream award, presided over the program and Travis Highland of New Hope Missionary Baptist Church in Williston gave the invocation. King Commission board members then led the crowd in the singing of "Lift Evry Voice and Sing," the Negro National Anthem.

Adria Kiara Green, the 2004 Keeper of the Dream winner, gave the welcome, during which she talked about tears running down her face as she watched the inauguration last year of Obama with her 2-year-old son.

Rico Lissimore of New Hope in Williston performed a song, and Gainesville Mayor Pegeen Hanrahan greeted the crowd.

Hanrahan said there is a lot of work to be done to ensure the legacy lives on, and she urged those in attendance to volunteer at local schools and in the community.

The Divine Destiny praise dancers from New Jerusalem Church of God by Faith in Monteocha then performed before Benjamin was introduced by Wantanisha Dawson Morant, the 2001 Keeper of the Dream award. At the end of his speech, Benjamin was presented with a plaque and a check for $7,500, which will be dispersed to him in equal amounts every fall for the next four years.

"I wouldn't be surprised at all if 20 years from now, we see you in Congress on your way to being the next African-American president of the United States," said King Commission president Rodney Long as he presented the plaque and check to Benjamin with commission board members standing beside them.

The program ended with the crowd singing "We Shall Overcome" while holding hands before the benediction was given by the Rev. Adrian Weeks, chaplain of the King Commission and the pastor of St. Matthews Missionary Baptist Church in Alachua.

The crowd then lined up on E. University Avenue for the 25-minute march to the King Center. As rows of marchers formed, a group of them began singing "Victory is Mine."

William Dorsey, a Gainesville resident and a U.S. Postal Service retiree, said he walks every year to honor King.

"The truth of the matter is that we have to walk," Dorsey said. "Dr. King fought hard for so much and we haven't got there yet. In order to get there, we have to keep walking. If he could give his life, I can walk."

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