Final MLK celebratory events focus on recognition
The 36th Annual Plant City Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Cultural Arts Festival continued into its second weekend with its Leadership Breakfast on Sunday, Jan. 16.
The event was held at the Hillsborough Community College – Trinkle Center and was an opportunity to award teachers, schools, churches, and students.
The keynote speaker for this year was Major Anthony Collins of the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.
Each award recipient was met with much applause as their name was called out.
The Community Service Award was presented to Bethel Missionary Baptist Church, Mt. Olive Baptist Church and New City Church of Plant City.
The Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Leader Award went to ProActive Sports Academe which was founded in 2004. The organization has mentored youth in both academics and athletics, with over 100 male students receiving scholarships.
Irish Miller took home the E.L. Bing Teacher of the Year Award. For 20 years she has been an educator. She teaches barbering and cosmetology at Plant City High School and is the author of three books.
Eight local high school students were recipients of scholarships helping to advance them to the collegiate level.
• Peyton Strawn of Plant City High School has a District GPA of 5.9. He has been accepted at the University of South Florida, Florida Technical College, and Florida Atlantic University.
• Amari Fitts of Durant High School has a District GPA of 5.9. She has been accepted to the University of South Florida, Florida Gulf Coast University, and plans to major in nursing.
• Jonathan Berroa of Tampa Bay Technical High School has a District GPA of 5.8. He has been accepted to the University of Central Florida and Louisiana State University. He plans on majoring in biomedical sciences, biology and pre-med.
• Tamia Williams of Durant High School is enrolled at Florida A&M University.
• Daphne Vanderford of Plant City High School has a District GPA of 5.5. She has been accepted at Florida Southern College, Keiser University, and University of West Florida. She plans to major in criminology and minor in sociology.
• Audrey Shelby of Strawberry Crest High School has a District GPA of 5.3. She has been accepted at Colorado State University, and Florida Gulf Coast University. She plans to major in zoology and criminology and minor in photography.
• Lloycoia Barnum of Strawberry Crest High School has a District GPA of 5.2. She has been accepted to George Mason University, University of Connecticut, Penn State, Florida Atlantic University, Florida Memorial University, Saint Leo University, and Temple University. She plans to major in forensic psychology and minor in criminology.
• Azmari Johnson of Durant High School has a District GPA of 4.9. She wants to pursue a nursing degree and business degree at Hillsborough Community College.
The scholarships were funded by the John Dicks Family Foundation, the Mosaic Company, Wish Farms, and Tipsy Bookworm. After the accolades had been presented, Collins took to the stage and offered thought-provoking words.
He served in the Army National Guard on the Special Weapons and Tactics (S.W.A.T.) Team for nine years, and in the District Intelligence Unit, among other positions.
Collins began his career at the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office in 2004. He has earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in criminal justice and a Master of Science degree in criminal justice.
The concept of unity was the constant theme throughout his speech.
“As I look forward to the next few years, I anticipate a critical turning point in our community and our nation.” Collins said.
He mentioned the tragic death of George Floyd and the COVID-19 pandemic as two issues that have tested people everywhere as a community.
While the pandemic has caused social distancing, the lack of understanding among each other has created a division as well, Collins said.
“The pandemic has brought the world to a standstill and has changed how we conduct all aspects of life,” he said. “Small things that were once taken for granted are now prohibited and every person must make sense of the new realities.”
However, Collins ended on a positive note as his presentation came to a close.
“Yet even in our darkest times, we should have hope,” Collins said. “This hope is the message of unity and togetherness that was central to Dr. King’s work.”
DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. DAY
On Monday, Jan. 17, – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the Cultural Arts Festival wrapped up with special recognition for local veterans held at the Bing Rooming House Museum.
The Woman’s Club of Plant City donated a large bin of socks to retired servicemen.
“It is a ceremonial gesture to recognize what soldiers have gone through,” explained William Thomas Jr., president of the Improvement League. “For those who are deployed or [have] gone on the field.”
It was received by the men of the Clarence W. Byers Sr. #83 Disabled American Veterans (DAV) chapter, based in Brandon.
Retired Sgt. 1st Class Hampton George is a member of the chapter who was present at the event.
He served in the military for 22 years and retired in 1996.
Every Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., he volunteers his time to help veterans apply for government assistance, at the Bing Rooming House Museum.
“First come, first served, no appointment necessary,” George said. “I’ve always wanted to help someone else. I enjoy it. It’s a passion of mine.”
The veteran has been providing this free service since October 2020 and has served nearly 700 local veterans, Thomas noted.
The celebration of Dr. King also coincided with the celebration of the local Woman’s Club 100th year anniversary.
However, Patricia Wolff, president of the Woman’s Club of Plant City, took the time during the event to focus on the impact of the civil rights icon.
“His legacy gives us direction, gives us hope,” Wolff said. “He also challenged us to do our part in making America a better nation. I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. But just remembering is not enough. Words are empty if there is no action.”