King celebration draws more than 700, many others online
Dr. Michael Eric Dyson, an American Book Award recipient and two-time NAACP Image Award winner, was the keynote speaker at the Palm Beach State College 18th annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration Thursday, telling the crowd that “Dr. King’s legacy is so significant that we should all engage in it.”
“The significance of Dr. King’s legacy is not simply to be frozen in an ‘I have a dream moment,’ Dyson said, referring to King’s famous “I have a Dream Speech” delivered on Aug. 28, 1963 from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.
Drawing applause during the 30-minute speech from the more than 700 people, including students from Lake Worth High School and Everglades Preparatory Academy, Dyson said that before Dr. King talked about his dream, he also talked about “some of the nightmare conditions in America.” Those include police brutality and poverty. He said individuals today, like King, must challenge bigotry and unfair practices as well people, including political leaders, who engage in them.
“He challenged the heart of white supremacy, social injustice and economic inequality. He wanted to expand the privilege of all peoples to engage in rightful and beautiful benefits from this society,’’ Dyson said. “That means he would challenge all bigotries.”
During the celebration held at the Duncan Theatre on the Lake Worth campus and streamed live to the campuses in Belle Glade, Palm Beach Gardens and Boca Raton, the College presented Martin Luther King, Jr. Leadership Awards in five categories. Honored were: Rhonda Rogers (Alumni), director of community engagement & supports at Prime Time Palm Beach County, Inc. and an advocate for high-quality educational services for vulnerable populations; the Rev. Kevin L. Jones (Individual), assistant pastor at Tabernacle Baptist Church in West Palm Beach, who has helped establish numerous programs and initiatives to serve the community; Tanzina Chowdhury (Student), an honors student who completed her Associate in Arts degree at PBSC last December and has been involved in community service, including volunteering at El Sol, Jupiter’s Neighborhood Resource Center. Also honored were Kanathy Haney (Faculty/Staff), a PBSC health professor and an advocate for victims of the crime of human trafficking, and Paul’s Place (Organization), an after-school program for underprivileged children located at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in southwest Delray Beach.
Joseph Gibbons, president of Gibbons Consulting Group and chairman of Energy Equity Alliance, Inc., presented the awards on behalf of his wife, PBSC President Ava L. Parker, J.D., who was attending a Florida College System Council of Presidents meeting and unable to attend the event.
Dr. Tunjarnika Coleman-Ferrell, dean of academic affairs at the Boca Raton campus, was the mistress of ceremonies for the event. It was organized by the District Diversity Council, chaired by Juanita Hook, assistant director of human resources and equity officer. Other program speakers included William Berger, vice chairperson of the District Board of Trustees, who in his opening remarks said policy alone is not enough to eradicate or eliminate the cycles of racism and discrimination that have gripped the nation in the past and today. “It is a matter of the heart,’’ he said. “It will take a change of heart within every man, every woman, and every child to effect real change and to address the issues that we are dealing with in this country.”