Black History Month kicks off with MLK Jr. Parade weekend festivities

It was a busy weekend in historic South Miami with the Kick-off Celebration and Martin Luther King Jr Parade launching the commencement of 2012 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr Black History Month Events. MLK Jr Committee Vice-Chair Gail Alexander dashed about the fields of the Gibson Bethel Community Center making sure the post parade line up went off without a hitch. Center Director Lorenzo Woodley was busy Kick-off evening with a crew of five preparing the weekend’s stage and Community Events Director Maria Stout Tate managed to hobble about with a broken toe and still not miss a beat.

“We come together in honor of Martin Luther King Jr and the legacy of his dream. I was the first African American Mayor in South Miami to show that it can be done. Now we need others to carry on,” said former mayor Dr. Anna Price.

After Price left the stage and before the high school bands began entertaining the festive lunching crowd enjoying a sunny Saturday afternoon sitting under tent, Mayor Philip Stoddard spoke about the disparity in African American statistics, Pastor Rodney James of Mount Olive Church offered an opening prayer of peace, and U R Awesome Founder Kemy Joseph stepped up to remind everyone “how awesome every single person on the planet is.”

The Sunshine Junkanoo Band from Liberty City was an awesome hit all weekend long; gifting the crowd with several mini jam sessions around the neighborhood and at the community center. Sunshine Junkanoo inaugurated the weekend events with a sashaying and swinging trumpeting trip into town as members danced in the streets leading to the community center in full costume regalia while playing a range of classic instruments. Kids on ATC bikes, moms pulling strollers, and dads and friends joined in following the band down the road to the community center.

“Junkanoo goes back centuries to its Bahamian roots, said member Daysu Johnson. We are all mainly descendants and it is in our blood. I remember when I was a kid the first time I heard that distinctive Junkanoo rhythmn, it is that same disco rhythmn — aahh, oohh, ahh, oohh.”

The Sunshine Junkanoo band goes back to the early 70’s when none other than local disco era pop music icon KC met the original band mates at a party in Hialeah and came together to form the KC & the Sunshine Junkanoo Band. Together they produced the big hit “Blow the Whistle.” KC and Sunshine Junkanoo eventually parted ways but the band plays regularly several times a week and Johnson says it is hard to keep up with the local demand for performances. The community got to enjoy three different performances of the Sunshine Junkanoo band Friday night during the Kick-off Celebration, Saturday morning during the parade and a third performance on the field for the crowd at the community center.

The purpose of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr Committee Parade weekend is: “to preserve Dr. King’s Dream. To accomplish this purpose the committee has been given the responsibility of planning and hosting community events commemorating the contributions Dr. King made to the world, prompting social change, non-violence, self-respect, dignity, peace and unity.”

To find out more about MLK Jr Committee Black History Month Events call Chair Brock Chester at 786-227-2590.

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