Sarasota remember Martin Luther King Jr. with celebrations and a nod to his dream.
Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream that one day his children would live in a nation where they are judged by what’s inside their hearts, and in 2020 that dream lives on in Sarasota.
“As we honor the life and legacy, we must remember his call of action for peace, justice, freedom and equality for all — that everyone should be treated by the content of their character and not the color of their skin,” said Trevor Harvey, NAACP Sarasota’s president, at the Temple Emanu-El tribute to King on Jan. 19.
A day later, and led by the Booker High School band and ROTC program, the MLK Unity Walk and Celebration kicked off for the 40th time, marching from the Robert L. Taylor Community Center to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Park off Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Way and Cocoanut Avenue — about a 1.2 mile walk.
Yellow signs that read “Jobs, education, housing. The struggle lives on,” and “Fight racism, poverty and war, the three evils of society,” were held high in the sky as participants marched to the beat of the band.
Residents lined the streets along the route and even joined the walk as it passed. Some of the bystanders, such as Valarie Buchard, waved to their friends who were marching and stopped for a hug.
Among the marchers was Joshua Williams, 11, who was joining the Unity Walk for the first time on the 34th anniversary of King’s birthday as a federal holiday. Williams said he was excited to march in honor of King after recently learning about the civil rights leader in school.
Katrina Humphrey, who traveled from Tampa for the day, joined Williams. She made the hour-long trip to join her cousins and to teach her children the importance of the day.
“Everyone should come together regardless of the race and color,” Humphrey said. “Everyone’s the same on the inside. We bleed the same, and I just wish to get past the color.”
The Unity Walk wasn’t the only way Sarasota remembered Martin Luther King Jr.
Across town the night before at Temple Emanu-El, the Jewish Federation of Sarasota-Manatee joined Light of the World International Church for the fifth year for an interfaith ceremony.
Among the poetry and speeches, Lonnetta Gaines’ interpretive dance performance to the “Ballad of Birmingham,” sung by Jerry Moore, stood out. The performance depicted the story of a young girl killed in the Sept. 15, 1963, bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala. The names of Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson and Carol Denise McNair, the girls who died in the bombing, were repeated during the service.
The speakers during the service sent out a call for action one after another for the people of Sarasota to come together and stand with one another.
“Today is a call to action, not a call to sit and not a call to complacency,” said Howard Tevlowitz, the CEO of Jewish Federation of Sarasota. “Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. preached urgency, and I cannot recall a time in my lifetime as urgent as today. The year 2020 marks 52 years since the assassination of King and over 80 years since the beginning of the Holocaust.
“As we celebrate this national holiday, we are called by Dr. King’s legacy and continue working together to realize our nation’s commitment to freedom and to human rights. The fight against racism, anti-Semitism and other isms is not over. Fights are not pleasant and not pretty. However, per Dr. King weapons, we can explore are our own collective memories and, most important, collective action.”