Locals celebrate MLK’s dream through President-elect Obama
Hundreds of people gathered in Fort Myers on Monday to celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, parading from Dunbar Jupiter Hammond Library to Centennial Park in remembrance of the slain hero of the Civil Rights movement.
In the heart of a county named for the South’s most venerated general, Robert E. Lee, people began to wonder aloud whether King’s dream was coming true on the eve of Barack Obama’s inauguration.
“Dr. King’s dream is alive and well in Fort Myers, Florida,” said Charlie Robinson, a representative of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in Lee County.
The day was at once a recognition of the nation’s troubled history of race relations and a celebration of the culmination of the fruits of King’s labor — today’s inauguration of Obama, the first African-American president.
Naples resident Bill Boyd said the day took on new meaning because of the people who were not there to take part in the festivities.
“Nov. 4 meant a lot to me because my aunt’s not here, my parents aren’t here, my brother’s not here. I’m here to see this happen,” he said.
Obama’s victory on election day was that much sweeter, Boyd said, because of the hardships endured by King and others in the Civil Rights movement.
“(The day) means more to me, not only because of Barack Obama, but I was around when Martin Luther King made the ‘I Have a Dream’ speech in ’63,” Boyd said.
“I’ve seen the riots with the fire hoses (in Birmingham, Ala.). I’ve seen the struggles we went through,” he added.
After the parade, crowds gathered in Centennial Park to enjoy food and fun while listening to speeches about King’s impact on the country.
Obama’s imminent inauguration meant vendors were offering more than just the usual fare of burgers, hot dogs and sodas. Obama memorabilia also was a hot seller.
T-shirts bearing the faces of Obama and King with the words “I Have a Dream” scrawled on them were placed in prominent positions to entice customers.
Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp, a Cape Coral resident, read a proclamation from Gov. Charlie Crist commemorating the day.
“Our country was founded on a promise that all men are created equal. Until Martin Luther King came along that promise was unfulfilled for millions of Americans,” Kottkamp said.
Today those millions are awaking from King’s dream to a new reality, one where a person of African-American descent takes the reins as the leader of the Free World.
“It’s a blessing. When we heard (Obama) won, we said, ‘Praise the Lord,'” Boyd’s wife, Gustine, said.