Hundreds attend 20th annual celebration honoring Dr. King
Tim Wise, an anti-racist author and educator, told a packed audience at Palm Beach State College’s 20th annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration Thursday that he came to “tell the truth” about the noted civil rights leader.
“When you come to commemorate Dr. King, the point is not to say things that will make people happy, to say things that make people comfortable, to say things to people that make them go out of here… as lighthearted as they were when they came in. On a day like today, the important thing is to tell the truth,’’ he said, after stepping to the podium at the more than 700-seat Duncan Theatre on the Lake Worth campus.
During his nearly 30-minute keynote speech, Wise said society has “sanitized” King’s message, choosing to focus on snippets of his agenda and not emphasizing the why behind it. “We’ve turned this man into a secular saint, forgetting that he was hated and hunted until the day he died.”
He said King was not a moderate or liberal. “He was a radical. He was a revolutionary who stood in the path of justice and righteousness and said that this country had…triple evils we had failed to acknowledge let alone address and he named them: racism, poverty and materialism and then militarism,” Wise said. Wise questioned how far the nation has come in those areas since King’s death more than 50 years ago.
“If we’re going to teach young children about Dr. King, we at least have an obligation to teach about why he was fighting so hard and what he was fighting for,’’ Wise said. “He wasn’t about nonviolence for the sake of itself, but nonviolence in the service and nonviolent civil disobedience in the service of justice and equity and a complete unraveling of a system of oppression. There was a purpose for that tactic.”
The celebration, organized by the District Diversity Council, included a musical performance by Dimensional Harmony of the Boynton Beach High School Choir and remarks by Barbara Miedema, vice chairperson of the District Board of Trustees, and PBSC President Ava L. Parker. The College presented Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration Awards to four individuals and an organization. They are:
- Justin Kunzelman (Alumni), co-founder/CEO of Rebel Recovery, who has led the charge to drastically reform local policy affecting people who use drugs.
- Vera Rolle Farrington (Individual), who in 1995 co-founded the nonprofit organization Expanding and Preserving Our Cultural Heritage, Inc. to preserve and share the black history of Delray Beach through preservation and education.
- Joseph Morel (Student), a former Palm Beach State College student trustee, who began his journey of advocating for Cystic Fibrosis by stand-up paddling 90 nautical miles from Bimini in the Bahamas to West Palm Beach.
- Dr. Irving Berkowitz (Faculty/Staff), dean of academic affairs at the PBSC Lake Worth campus and the son of Holocaust survivors, who has dedicated over 42 years to academia, advocating for underserved groups, improving race relations, raising awareness of social injustice and championing diversity.
- Dress for Success Palm Beaches (Organization), a nonprofit that provides clothing as well as coaching and development tools to help women find the job that’s right for them, grow and progress in that position, and ultimately achieve economic independence.