The 2016 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemorative Celebration, with the theme, “Protect the Dream, Serve the Community” continued to build on its legacy as the premier event for the local civil rights community bringing all races together for the annual observance. From the Youth Showcase/Musical celebration at Zion Hope Primitive Baptist Church on Thursday, the 14th of January, to the Prayer Breakfast on Saturday, January 16th, to the Sunday Service at Greater Union Missionary Baptist Church to the Parade on Monday January 18th, the City of Pensacola and Escambia County honored the leadership of Dr. King.
At the Prayer Breakfast on Saturday morning in the Wright Place auditorium, Rev. Paul Blackmon, Pastor of First Baptist Church Ferry Pass, presided over the program. Greetings were brought by Pastor Frank Jenkins, Vice President, Florida General Baptist Convention; Pastor Willie Demps, First West Florida Baptist District Association; Mayor Ashton Hayward, City of Pensacola; Sheriff David Morgan, Escambia County; Assistant Pensacola Police Chief Tommie Lyter; and Vernon Abney, U.S. Southeast Regional Conservation Engineer.
The message for the celebration breakfast was brought by the Rev. Dr. Michael Johnson, a former NAACP Pensacola Branch President, Pastor of Sixth Avenue Missionary Baptist Church, and the new President of the Baptist Minister’s Union of Pensacola and Vicinity. Pastor Johnson delivered a very strong testimonial for a local unified movement to “Protect the Dream, Serve the Community”! His testimony was personal as the pastor of Sixth Avenue in the midst of the neighborhood that was labeled has having the highest level of crime in Pensacola. “We pulled together” he stated with their community partners to turn their eastside neighborhood around. “We painted a picture of unity which inspired others”! Pastor Johnson described how the church led the neighborhood transformation by buying up dilapidated housing and reviving the civic spirit against drugs and community deterioration. Pastor Johnson exclaimed, “A battery cannot run on just a negative charge. It also needs a positive charge”. He continued to make references on the need for unity when he stated, “We all came over on different boats, but we are all in the same boat now”!
The Sunday 2016 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemorative Celebration services was a celebratory and joyful event with a strong message delivered by the Reverend Dr. Otis Culliver the Pastor of the famous Tabernacle Baptist Church that is known for its role in the civil and voting rights movement during the 1960’s.
The finale of the weekend was of course the MLK Birthday Celebration Parade in Downtown Pensacola! There were beautiful and colorful floats that lit up the streets and the television screens through collaboration between Blab, WBQP, and many local commercial sponsors. Churches, businesses, non-profit organizations, and schools all took part in the parade with the traditional Mardi gras candy, beads and moon pie throws.
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