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"My Life, All Lives Matter" Highlight Local Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Events

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Dr. MLK Jr Celebration Committee of Okaloosa County

The legacy of slain Civil Rights icon Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is being celebrated with a host of events across the region leading up to the annual MLK Day parades on Monday.

For the Fort Walton Beach area, 2016 marks their 30th annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration.

“The theme for this year is “My Life Matters,” said Steve Chatman, co-chair of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration Committee in Okaloosa.

“The reason it (theme) was selected was to emphasize the importance of everyone’s life. With all the things going on across the nation, we want to emphasize to all of our students that all lives matter.”

According to Chatman, the theme relates - in part - to the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement sweeping the country in response to police-involved shootings of African Americans in cities such as Ferguson, Cleveland, New York and Chicago.

“And we took it from a quote from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. that says “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter,” he said.

“My Life Matters” was also the theme for the 2016 Oratorical and Poster Contest for students in the Okaloosa County School District. The competition for elementary, middle, and high school students was held on Saturday, Jan. 9. Despite rainy weather, there were about 75 entries highlighting the students’ creative skills.

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Credit Dr. MLK Jr Celebration Committee of Okaloosa County
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Dr. MLK Jr Celebration Committee of Okaloosa County

“It was fabulous,” Chatman said, noting that the kids put a lot of heart into their projects. “Their posters actually told a story of their life. And, the oratorical was just phenomenal,”

One of the middle school competitors was Yzabel Breboneria from St. Mary Catholic School. She talked about the devastating murder of her aunt when she was ten years old and having to go to school the next day.

“That day we coincidentally learned about people who faced indescribable ordeals just for justice and equality,” said Breboneria. “Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr. had a lasting stamp on my memory.”

She thought if someone else could find good things out of bad, keep their faith, and have such an effect on the world, maybe things could get better. But, that would take time.

Breboneria recounted the depths of her depression and suicidal thoughts due to side effects from medication she was taking. She got better, but still struggled to cope. Then she remembered the life-changing talk she had with a cousin.

“She told me the reason my life was important was because each day I was given the opportunity to change lives,” Breboneria said. “I was given the opportunity to lift up others because I had become stronger from the ordeals I had faced. I remember this as a reason to feel secure again. I remember this as meaning for why my life was important.”

Breboneria won first place in the middle school oratorical competition. Ansley Aden won at the elementary level. Juwan Gaines took first place at the high school level with his talk about his life as a young black male.

Nyala Head, Jaden Hall, and Jeremy Miller won first place for each level in the poster contest.

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Credit Dr. MLK Jr Celebration Committee of Okaloosa County
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Dr. MLK Jr Celebration Committee of Okaloosa County
Winner of 2016 Okaloosa County MLK Oratorical and Poster Contest.

Each of the winners will be recognized at the annual MLK Memorial program to be held Sunday evening at 5:30 at Beulah First Baptist Church in Fort Walton Beach.

“We encourage everyone to come out,” said Dr. Nicole Lee, who is a member of the MLK Celebration Committee of Okaloosa. “It’s always a great time. It’s always a great event.”

Lee says they’re also excited about Monday’s annual MLK parade.

Registration is now underway. Line-up will begin at 8 a.m. Monday at the Fort Walton Beach Civic Auditorium. Starting at 10 a.m., the parade will proceed from there to Fort Walton Beach High School.

From Gulf Coast State College, Dean Al McCambry will be the featured speaker at a rally to be held at the school beginning at noon.

There will also be a lot of fun activities for children and adults, all aimed at highlighting the life and legacy of Dr. King.

But, for members of the celebration committee, co-chair Steve Chatman believes this is important work.

“We have to honor his dream. We have to honor his vision,” said Chatman. He pointed out that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his life to ensure equal rights for all. And, he believes it’s incumbent upon every generation to do their part to carry on his work, “that we continue to voice his vision and his dream, and not only voice it, but live it.”

That sentiment will be on display at similar events across the region.

PENSACOLA:

All Lives Matter Two Day Event

A coalition of civil rights groups, TEA Party advocates, and conservative leaders are coming together in Pensacola, Florida to promote the banner of unity among all races and ethnicities, with the tag-line, All Lives Matter. 

Friday, January 15, 6 p.m.: Former Presidential candidate Herman Cain will be the keynote speaker at a Frederick Douglass-Booker T. Washington Dinner at New World Landing, located at 600 S. Palafox St. Pensacola, FL.

Featured guests include Jennifer Carroll, the first black Lt. Governor of Florida, Niger Innis and Thuy Lowe of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), and K. Carl Smith, author of Frederick Douglass Republicans: The Movement to Re-Ignite America’s Passion for Liberty, and the President and Founder of the Fredrick Douglass Republicans, and Messianic Rabbi Eric Tokajer.

Saturday, January 16 9 a.m.: All Lives Matter Unity March to be held in the Martin Luther King Jr. Plaza, located on N. Palafox St. between Chase and Gregory Streets, Niger Innis and Thuy Lowe, of CORE, will lead the march, which will be followed by a rally at the Old Courthouse Steps, located at 300 S. Palafox St. The event will conclude with a march to the Pensacola Veterans Memorial Park for a wreath-laying ceremony.

For more details about the two-day All Lives Matter events, contact Dorothy Davis 850-941-0289 or Sam Mullins at 850-572-6278 or e-mail src.tparty@yahoo.com.

PENSACOLA:

MLK Prayer Breakfast – Saturday, Jan. 16, 2016 @8:00 a.m. – The Wright Place – 80 E. Wright Street – Dr. Wesley Wachob, Pastor

MLK Religious Services – Sunday, Jan. 17, 2016 @ 3:00 p.m. –  Greater Union Missionary Baptist Church – 1300 N. Guillemard Street – Dr. Michael Thompson, Pastor

MLK Parade – Monday, Jan. 18, 2016  Line-up — 9:00 a.m. – Parade – 11 a.m. Spring and Garden Streets        

MILTON:  

MLK Prayer Breakfast: The weekend kicks off with a Prayer Breakfast on Saturday morning at the Santa Rosa County Auditorium located at 4530 Spikes Way. The breakfast begins at 9 a.m. and will feature multicultural presentations. Tickets are $10 per ticket. The event is hosted by the Fellowship Churches of Santa Rosa County Fundraising committee. For more information, contact Rev. Murray Hamilton by email murrayhamilton55@att.net.

Commemorative Program: Hosted by the Pastors and Ministers’ Wives Organization with the Fellowship organization, the Commemorative Program will take place Sunday, January 17 at the Mt.PilgrimAfricanBaptistChurch, located at 5103 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive. In addition to featuring guest speaker Dr. Joseph L. Marshall, the program will crown the 2016 MLK King and Queen and announce this year’s Community Award recipient.

MLK Day Parade: Line up for the annual MLK Day Parade begins at 8:30 a.m. on Monday, January 18 at Milton High School. From there the parade, presented by the Fellowship’s MLK Committee, will begin at 10 a.m. For more information on the parade, contact Annie Gilmore at agilmore5166@bellsouth.net.

MLK Block Party: Following the annual parade on Monday, the MLK Committee will be hosting the MLK Block Party at noon on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive. It will feature several booths for nonprofit organizations in a family-oriented atmosphere, Gilmore said. The party will also feature live music from local choirs, food, games and children’s activities. For more information on the block party, contact Carolyn McCray at Cmccray8725@hotmail.com or Gwen Rhodes at rhodesg@nwflaaa.org