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Thursday, Sep 21, 2017
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King's legacy celebrated with Freedom Walk, awards

PLANT CITY - Stephanie Green said she hasn't missed a Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Cultural Festival since they started nearly 30 years ago. This year was no exception. Green, her daughter Davbreon Richardson and 2-year-old grandson Antwain Davis Jr. were among those who took part in the festival's Freedom Walk around Samuel W. Cooper Park and lake. The walk helped remember marches of the civil rights era. "I need show my support and teach my children and grandchildren that there's a legacy to be followed," Green said.
The walk was just one of many activities over the four-day celebration that commemorated the slain civil rights leader. The festival also included a carnival, step show, leadership awards breakfast, parade and tours of the recently completed second floor of the Bing Rooming House Museum. This year's theme was faith. "Our churches are still our foundation," said Liesta Sykes, president of the Improvement League of Plant City, organizer of the festival. "We want to thank them for their continued support." In the early days of the festival, churches hosted many of the events before they moved to other venues, she said. The featured speaker at the annual leadership breakfast on Jan. 20 was Joe Nathan Halman Jr., senior pastor and founder of Greater Works Ministries of Winter Haven and a division commander with the Polk County Sheriff's Office. Halman, 46, said he never felt the sting of such indignities as separate drinking fountains for blacks during the era of segregation because of the civil rights movement spearheaded by King. "I stand here because of the men and women just like Dr. King who refused to give up," he said. In an invocation, Elder Emmett Wiseman of Bethel Baptist Church, offered similar thoughts. "He is our hero of justice and equality for men and women regardless of creed or color," Wiseman said. Annual awards handed out at the breakfast included: Jan. 21, the final day of the four-day festival, coincided with the public inauguration ceremony of President Obama. The Improvement League hosted a viewing party at the Bing house, followed shortly thereafter by the Freedom Walk at the park. "We are walking today to remember a time when we didn't have a lot of the freedoms we have today," Sykes said.

dnicholson@tampatrib.com (813) 394-5103
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