Reminiscent of the 1960s when Civil Right leaders would race sunrise to organize, before marching peacefully through cities in protest and support of citizen rights, on Saturday, January 15, 2011 at 5:30 AM, as a prelude to the official Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday, Commissioner Gail E. Miller assembled colleagues, volunteer staff, devoted residents and a host of other followers at Historic City Hall, 777 Sharazad Boulevard, to prepare for the City of Opa-locka’s Annual MLK Walk and Parade, which began this year with several live telecast on WPLG Channel 10 with reporter Ben Kennedy.
After the morning assemble at City Hall, the organizers joined other participants on 151st Street and 27th Avenue, where the parade/walk began at 10:00AM, then preceded back to Historic City Hall, where the program and celebration continued with local and visiting Officials, former Miami Dolphins player Brian Walker, several guest speakers and artists from PIPELINE RECORDS, featuring Billy Blue.
As sponsor of this year’s MLK WALK, Commissioner Miller, daughter of the late Honorable Helen L. Miller (the first African-American Female Mayor in the City of Opa-locka, and in the State of Florida), stated, “Dr. King got up early, went to bed late and sometimes NEVER slept AT ALL, because he had a cause to further; a cause, not for himself, but for the good of communities like ours, all across the nation.” She continued, “Because he believed in doing right, he sacrificed his life to make it possible for THIS generation to get-up EARLY anytime or wait-up all night, outside stores to be first to purchase the newest IPOD, IPHONE or concert tickets or to gain access to amusement parks in cities they would ordinarily not be admitted. These Young people should never have a problem getting-up early to WALK in behalf of the person who paved the way for them to do that.” Miller reflected on other possibilities that Dr. King ushered in, like the right for all citizens to be able to obtain property on both sides of the railroad tracks in Opa-locka; to own and operate businesses; to attend integrated schools and swim in the same pools as their white counterparts.
Weekend reporter Ben Kennedy, who is already on the beat while almost everyone is just rolling out of bed, commented that he was very surprised about the positive response to the “shoot” so early in the morning, in the dark. While observing the energy of the children, the community camaraderie, the cooperation of the Opa-locka Police Department and other recent improvements to the city, Kennedy stated, “This MLK event was one of my better stories from the City of Opa-locka.” The broadcast aired at 6:30, 7:30, 9:00 and 10:00 AM; followed by edited reports at 6:00 and 11:00 PM, then again throughout Sunday’s newscast. Televised highlights of the Opa-locka MLK WALK/Parade and park festivities included cameos of Mayor Myra L. Taylor and other Commission members, the Alliance for Musical Arts Band, the Bahamas/Miami Junkanoos, as well as community organizers. Miller said “the LIVE broadcast with Channel 10 was also an opportunity for the City of Opa-locka to showcase their efforts and show appreciation for Dr. King, across South Florida.” However, this declaration soon manifested itself into an understatement by the time the parade and festival was complete, because reports began pouring in via text messages and phone calls of NATIONAL “City of Opa-locka sightings” on CNN, as well as on other local stations such as Channels 4, 6 and Spanish television network Telemundo that also aired the event.
While initially waiting for the LIVE record to begin, elder members of the crowd shared stories of the Civil Rights Movement. 78-year-old Florie Gordon told a story, which in itself has become a tradition for her to repeat to her daughter every King Anniversary, about the 76 year-old woman who once said with pride, in a weakened, grammatically challenged voice, after ending a long march with Dr. King…, “My feets is tired, but my soul is rested!’” Florie shouted, “Well, our bodies may be tired this morning, but our eyes don’t need to be resting when there is work to do.” She then flashed to the reporter an old, but treasured thumb printed photo ID badge, which she has possessed since the 1950s, then she revealed, “The only way I was allowed to enter Miami Beach was with this… but because of Dr. King, now I can go anywhere without it… he was a GREAT man!”
Dr. Carroll J. Storr told a tale about the time he, as a member of the Royal Bahamas Police Force Reserve (under the tenure of the Right Honorable Lynden O. Pindling), was responsible for Dr. Kings security while he was vacationing in Nassau Bahamas for two days. “Even on break, Dr. King stayed very committed to the Civil Rights Movement. He didn’t rest. It was on his mind and in his heart the entire time.” Dr. Carroll confirmed, “The effects of Dr. King traveled across oceans!”
According to Commissioner Timothy Holmes, “It was an early morning WALK in 1955, which ultimately lasted ONE WHOLE YEAR (through rain, snow, heat and hail) that brought the Birmingham Community to its knees.” He remembered, “Out of self-worth and pride Mrs. Rosa Parks and Dr. King lead that movement. Because of them, Black people don’t have to walk anywhere, anymore… we now OWN busses!” He quickly reminded the youth, “But each year, we NEED to have this MLK Walk in honor and respect of this man, and throughout the year, we NEED to WALK with our head AND our pants-up, in honor and respect for ourselves!”
Commissioner Rose Tydus, the first African-American City Clerk of Opa-locka and in Miami-Dade County, noted, “The type of solidarity displayed today was representative of Dr. King’s Dream. The Commission, Dr. Robert B. Ingram Elementary School, members of the 5000 Role Models, other municipalities such as the City of Medley, the City of Bal Harbor’s Police Departments, the City of Hialeah and Miami-lakes, an more importantly, families from Opa-locka were on one accord with the meaning and the actions brought forth to make today’s activity a huge success.” Tydus commended Commissioner Miller for the role she played in “bringing us together so early in the morning and for sponsoring such a magnificent program.”
As the stories as testimonies continued, the attendees were reminded about the children who stood in the front lines of water hoses and police dogs; about sit-ins at food counters, about bodies stretched across airport strips and other demonstrations and consequences of the Civil Rights movement. Commissioner Miller declared, “The cushioned lives we now lead, came with a price.” Commissioner Miller exclaimed, “We are a small city, but we are big in culture and tradition.” She continued, “The MLK Walk and parade is one tradition which we have been committed to since 1982, when we became the first city to celebrate it… a whole year BEFORE President Ronald Reagan even signed the King Holiday into effect.” The first MLK Walk in Opa-locka was organized by Mrs. Ollie Kelley (Former Commissioner). Miller affirmed, “We have ‘talked the talked,’ but now it’s time for us to ‘walk the MLK walk’ as a ‘community!’”
On Monday January 17, 2011 the official “KING HOLIDAY,” the City of Opa-locka Commission also took part in the Annual Liberty City MLK Parade. As did thousands of spectators who attended, Commissioner Dorothy “Dottie” Johnson did not allow the rainy weather to cast gloom or prevent her from WALKING in the Parade in Liberty City to once again pay tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Proof, that nothing could hinder the celebration of an American Hero.