An early morning drizzle did not dampen or diminish the determination of devoted marchers during the 30th Annual City of Opa-locka MLK WALK, hosted by Vice Mayor Joseph L. Kelley, sponsored by the Mayor, City Commission and the Parks & Recreation Department in partnership with the Community Relations Recreation Activities Advisory Board (CRRAAB), to honor slain Civil Rights leader Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr. on Saturday, January 19, 2013 at 9:00 a.m.
The Opa-locka MLK WALK and celebration was initially organized in 1983 by former Commissioner and mother of the Vice Mayor, Ollie B. Kelley, after a resolution was passed by the Commission, making Opa-locka the first city in the State of Florida to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday as a legal holiday.
The leader of a monumental movement, Dr. King was accompanied on many occasions by people of all races and nationalities. Courageous children often stood in the front lines of water hoses and police dogs, while others lead protest through sit-ins at food counters, stretched their bodies across airport strips, and amidst the ever present threat of violence enrolled in all-white schools, among other demonstrations in the fight for freedom, justice and equality. Saturday, in the City of Opa-locka, with that same spirit of solidarity and pride, marchers of all ages and backgrounds, wearing gold shirts displaying a portrait of Dr. King, assembled at the Cultural Arts Center, 2105 Ali Baba Avenue to begin the walk, in memory of Dr. King’s legacy.
Reminiscent of the 1960s when Civil Right leaders would gather early in the morning before marching peacefully through cities in protest of injustice and in support of citizen rights, participants sang spirituals as they approached the pivotal point of the walk at the 27th Avenue and Sharazad “prayer stop,” significant of a time when blacks, unless working, were banned from the Westside of 27thAvenue. On this corner, a heartfelt prayer, lead by Vice Mayor Kelley, ignited the steps for the rest of the journey as marchers, now past the commercial district, continued through the residential area and on to the new Sherbondy Village, 215 Perviz Avenue, where Opa-locka Mayor Myra L. Taylor, Commissioners Dorothy “Dottie” Johnson and Timothy Holmes offered “Words to Dream By,” followed by reflections and hope from walk founder and former Commissioner Kelley and Florida State Representative Cynthia A. Stafford.
After performing “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” the audience directed its attention to renowned artist Addonis Parker, Mrs. Jannie Russell, Mrs. Jackie Forgarty and other CRRAAB members who awarded prizes to first place “Art in the Park” competition winners Anaya Dukes, Bryanna Carswell, Carl Dawkins Henry Castro, Tyuan Allen II, Cortney Barnaby and eight other second and third place champions in four age categories, spanning from five year-olds to adults. To encourage and continue bringing awareness to talented artist who live, work, attend school or church in the City of Opa-locka and who are “Fulfilling the Dream,” Mr. Parker and other members of the CRRAAB donated over six hundred dollars in gift cards and cash prizes from their personal funds, to the winning artist.
The City of Opa-locka MLK WALK and celebration culminated with the sun overpowering the rain, and City employees out-scoring community teams 55-48 and 24-19, respectively, in two friendly games of basketball. However, the commemoration continued through Monday, January 21, 2013, when City of Opa-locka officials participated, along with thousands of spectators, in a double celebration at Annual Liberty City MLK Parade to pay tribute to Dr. King’s holiday and the Presidential inauguration which shared the same day, honoring two great American Heroes for their vision, brotherhood, service and love for ALL mankind!