Memorial unveiled of King honorees


Musheerah Shahid points to members of the King Commission Hall of Fame during a memorial unveiling of the new kiosks at the King Memorial Gardens in downtown Gainesville.

Tom Gaard/Special to the Guardian
Published: Wednesday, January 19, 2011 at 9:57 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 19, 2011 at 9:57 p.m.

Although it rained buckets, the lousy weather didn't deter the nearly 80 people who attended the unveiling of a new memorial kiosk that will feature the recipients of the King Commission Hall of Fame, the Edna M. Hart Keeper of the Dream Scholarship as well the history of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commission of Florida Inc.

The 2011 Hall of Fame Award recipients also were recognized at the unveiling ceremony Monday at the King Memorial Gardens located at 200 E. University Ave., just east of the clock tower on NE 1st Street and University Avenue.

The Memorial Gardens, which includes a reflective pool and a monument marking milestones in King's struggle for equality for this nation, as well as the new memorial miosk, is available for viewing anytime.

Marie Small, executive director of the King Commission, said the memorial kiosk, which was built by Santa Fe College students, consists of three separate structures. One features photos and induction dates over the past 26 years of all of the Hall of Fame recipients. A second area features photos and induction dates of all of the Keeper of the Dream Scholarship winner. A third structure features the 26-year history of the King Commission.

"There is no gate so that anyone anytime can come and see the Memorial Gardens," said Small, who during the program also recognized her peers on the King Commission Board of Directors.

And in a nod to the lousy weather, Small reminded us that, "The Lord didn't promise sun every day."

Diyonne McGraw, vice president of the King Commission, said the memorial kiosk will be updated each year to reflect new recipients of the Hall of Fame, the Keeper of the Dream Scholarship, and the history of the King Commission.

At the event, Pastor Kevin Thorpe, chaplain of the King Commission, offered the invocation. Evelyn Foxx, a King Commission member and president of the Alachua County branch of the NAACP, delivered the welcome. Rodney J. Long, president of the King Commission, recognized elected officials and members of the clergy and provided a brief history of the King Commission.

Jackie Hart, executive director emeritus of the King Commission, inducted the 2011 Hall of Fame Award winners, including community activists Ruth Brown and her husband, the late Steve Brown, as well as Father John Gillespie, a former priest at St. Augustine Church and Catholic Student Center who advocates for the homeless.

Hart said the Browns and Father Gillespie exemplified King's commitment to social change through non-violence.

Diana McPherson, who accepted the award for the Browns, said her mother was unable to attend for health reasons. She said her parents believed that "we all have a moral obligation to the community we live in," McPherson said.

Father Guillespie said his life was changed after he read King's 1963 letter from a Birmingham jail. "The line between good and evil runs through the heart of every individual," Father Gillespie said.

The program came to an end with Long inviting all of the recipients and their families to be first at the unveiling of the memorial kiosk and to pose for photos.

The son of one Hall of Fame recipient was on hand for the unveiling.

"I'm proud of my father and extremely proud that he is still remembered," said Oliver Jones, the son A. Quinn Jones, a past recipient of the Hall of Fame and a revered educator who devoted his life to providing quality education for black students.

An exhibit that celebrates his life and legacy is now on display at the Thomas Center.

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