During Black History Month, African-Americans across America reflect on our unique past, our place in history. Perhaps no one central figure played a more important role in our modern day history than Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The following article is a brief perspective of a unique effort underway in Broward County the began over the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday in a section of Pompano Beach known as Collier City. The Bold quotes in parentheses were made by Dr. King at various times through out his short life.
Reflections of Dr. Martin Luther King and Keeping the Dream alive in Collier City, Pompano Beach
Martin Luther King Boulevard in Pompano is always busier than usual on the holiday that honors the memory of its namesake. The wind, the rain, the overall inclement weather that came in with 2011 did nothing to damper the spirits of those determined to attend the annual Martin Luther King Day parade which fell on January 17th this year.
Umbrellas, raincoats, and jackets held over head could be spotted along MLK Boulevard as spectators turned out in large numbers to honor the legacy of Dr. King.
(“I have a dream….)
For the elders, it is time to pay tribute to the man who brought civil rights to the forefront of America. For the boomers, it is a time to reflect on the freedoms that are now enjoyed but were once forbidden. For the children, it is a time to learn so as not to take for granted.
(…that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”)
MLK Boulevard in this section of the city, also known as Broward County District number 9, has a legacy of its own Originally named Rock Road, because it was made of rocks…and later renamed Hammondville Road after a pioneer vegetable farmer, brings back vivid memories for those who reside in the neighborhoods of Saunders Gardens or Collier City.
“This road was once the center of a thriving black community. There were shops, restaurants, markets, gas stations,” says Carmen Jones, who proudly states that she is fourth generation Pompano Beach. “Farming was the mainstay and goods and services all moved along this roadway.”
(“Almost always, the creative dedicated minority has made the world better.”)
Commerce brought progress. Progress brought change. The Colored High School changed its name to Blanche Ely and became a powerhouse for graduating professional athletes, college educators, musicians, managers. The Dream carried them to new successes. In return they carried on the Dream. They moved up and they moved out; and the neighborhood, like the times, changed.
The once flourishing neighborhoods began to flounder. Businesses closed and unemployment rose. Stroll through MLK Boulevard, some areas such as Collier City and its history is blurred by the blight. Trash cover vacant lots, boarded up dilapidated buildings stay vacant year after year. The landscape is barren, but for small patches of grass that dot rows of aging homes. Some well kept, some not so. A sense of separation has replaced a sense of pride.
The Dream slumbers.
“We have to wake this place up. What we have here now is a neighborhood of people who have been overlooked for too long. Of course there is apathy and a sense of disconnect. Redevelopment, renovation has been promised but little has been accomplished. We can do better—as Dr. King says we must do what is right.” That’s the sentiment of Broward County Commissioner Dale Holness, who was elected to represent District 9 in November of 2010.
“Commissioner Holness, during his campaign promised me that he would bring change to this section of Pompano Beach. I’m going to hold him to that promise,” Ms. Jones means it. “This is my passion, to bring this neighborhood back to what it once was. This is my Dream.”
(…Life's most persistent and urgent question is, 'What are you doing for others?’)
Hope returned to Collier City over the King Holiday, if even for a short time. Commissioner Holness joined forces with Volunteer Broward, Pompano Beach City Officials, Blanche Ely High School staff and students, business owners and churches for a weekend of community clean up and service.
The volunteers spread across the vacant parcels for hours and picked up a vast array of trash until there was no more --and the residents took notice. As people picked up…others painted. Greater Community Missionary Baptist Church got a new coat as did the building across the street that had previously been on the downslide. Pompano city workers unloaded donated shrubs, trees and plants and by day’s end, landscape and plants breathed new life into the community and visibly changed the main street entrance into collier city ---making art out of the sign that welcomes people to the neighborhood.
“I can’t think of a better way to honor the life and selfless service of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.” said Kristina DaSilva, Director of Programs at Volunteer Broward. “Dr. King once said ‘everybody can be great, because everybody can serve’. It’s wonderful to see Dr. King’s vision, where people from all walks of life join together to address critical community issues, and through their service, make a positive impact on our community.”
The effort and attention brought people out of their houses. Some were suspicious. Few people come to these parts without a motive. Hard work is usually not one of them.The pastor’s wife began to cry.
“I was overcome with tears of joy for the love of mankind as everyone came together to show love and support for our church and community. We are thankful for our sisters and brothers coming together, living together, loving together as is Dr. King’s dream,” said Deaconess Everlena C. Derico.
“I wanted to do this. To bring everyone together and to come here and actually do the work in order to be the example for what can be done,” said Commissioner Holness. “These people don’t always know where to turn to for help. We hope the neighborhood will become self-sufficient. Then elected officials can focus on redevelopment and restoration.”
The MLK Holiday in Central Pompano culminated with a social services fair at Blanche Ely High School. City, County and non-profit agencies set up tables and met with residents to discuss various types of assistance that ran the gamut from financial help to finding a job. Again, the camaraderie and partnership was apparent, renewed. Maybe it was because something like this hadn’t been done…or maybe it was the spirit of the holiday.
(“….A genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus…”)
Commissioner Holness has a excel spread sheet that maps out his plans for cities and communities within District 9. He began his first project in Collier City, because he saw the need, heard the pleas and had promises to keep.
“Right or wrong, the people felt ignored. I wanted to show what could be done. Working on the neighborhood will restore pride and a sense of place in the community and that will lead to more progress,” said Holness. “I think everyone learned something this weekend.”
“Everything is good now, but I wonder where we go from here,” says Carmen Jones. “How do we keep it going?” The answer can only lie in the heart of the community itself. In the people who call it home, the people who govern and those who, like Dr. King, follow the Dream.
(“Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase.”)
As we celebrate Black History Month…..
The Dream of Dr. King continues to inspire.
The Dream of Carmen Jones continues to influence.
The Dream of Dale Holness to empower people continues.
And the Dream of the Community is its future.
Written By: Kimberly Maroe, Public Information, Broward County Commission
Photos taken by: Lavern Deer
Photos from top to bottom:
- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr,
- Broward County Commissioner Dale Holness paints Missionary Baptist Church in Collier City, January 2011
- Pompano City workers landscape the intersection of NW 27th Ave and Atlantic Blvd on MLK, Jr. Day in Pompano Beach
- Tyreshia Woodson dresses for MLK Jr. Day celebrations