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published: Friday, January 25, 2013
Clermont pays tribute to MLK
ROXANNE BROWN | Staff Writer
Longtime mayor and lifelong Clermont resident Hal Turville remembers segregation, not just in Clermont but the nation as a whole, and shared those experiences Monday morning before a large crowd gathered at the waterfront pavilion for South Lake's Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration.
He talked about black and white people not sharing bathrooms and not eating at the same restaurants. He also talked about segregation in schools and, most of all, about the people who worked toward change and about those who laid down their lives for civil rights.
"We've been witnesses to disappointments and witnesses to tragedy," Turville said. "Things that seemed so senseless at the time. Times when it seemed that people gave their lives for nothing. Fortunately, for us now in life, those were times that made a difference."
Organized by another lifelong resident, Tim Murry, on behalf of Christian Men in Action and sponsored by the South Lake Democratic Club, Clermont's second annual MLK celebration went without
Turville's introductory speech was followed by prayers, musical selections, and many inspirational performances by the children from various organizations and churches in the area.
The New Generation praise dancers wowed the crowd, followed by the Unity Thru Praise singers, the Boys and Girls Club students reading a poem, and the New Jacob's Chapel youth choir.
Lake County Commissioner Sean
Parks also took the stage to read a proclamation the county commission approved, declaring that Jan. 21, 2013, would forever be proclaimed a day of celebration in honor of King's life and dreams.'
"...May this be a day for the people of all races, religions and stations in life, to put aside their differences and join in the spirit of togetherness, a day for our nation to pay tribute to Dr. King and the movement which awakened us to the best qualities of the American spirit," Parks said as he read the proclamation.
Emcee Ronald Jones then followed by throwing a challenge out to the younger attendees.
"I'd like to take this time to challenge our young adults to realize what this dream is all about... Don't let the dream die with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, but continue to take the mantel and carry it forward," Jones said.
Beyond that, the message was that anyone, black or white, young or old, male or female, can do anything should they, too, dream and persevere.
That sentiment was supported by the mention of President Barack Obama sharing the Monday King holiday with his inauguration into his second term in office.
"On this day, when MLK said I have a dream, what would he say if he knew a black man would be sworn in for his second term as president of the United States?" Turville asked. "Today, I hope he's the proudest person in heaven, as he well deserves to be today, and let the lesson learned be that if you have courage, strength and you work hard and stick with it, you can be successful in most anything you want."
Other examples of people achieving great heights, in spite of color or obstacles, were Clermont's first ever black police chief, Charles Broadway, and Val Demings, the first woman police chief of Orlando and a former congressional candidate.
Demings, who was the morning's keynote speaker, shared her family story, starting with her parents' struggle as a housekeeper and a janitor, while raising seven children in segregated times -- and ending with her own personal success.
She also spoke about the progress and continued journey toward racial equality in the country, using experiences she encountered while on the Orlando police force and throughout her life.
She spoke about Orlando having hired its first black officers in 1951 and the journey, like King's and so many others', they undertook to make it better for others down the road, including herself.
"They (first black officers) had the uniform, the badge and gun, but they were different," she said, adding that those officers worked in the community during a time when they were not wanted or respected. "But they had the courage to live the nightmare so that we could live the dream."
Demings compared their struggles to King's.
"If you take a good look at American history, we can't help but see African Americans, right there, working to build our country into a great nation. That's exactly what Dr. King did," Demings said.
"We know that no great moment just happens on is own," she said. "Great moments in history only happen when someone has enough courage to make things happen. Dr. King was such a man. It took courage to do what did. Courage. That is the special thing that makes ordinary people rise up and do extraordinary things."
Demings also asked that the younger generations show courage through struggle and adversity to reach their own dreams.
"Learn to dream big and live up to your full potential," she said. "We ask that today, as we remember Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He was a man who dreamed big, with faith, determination and courage. He asked to be remembered as a drum major for justice. Today, we remember."