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County leaders unite to remember MLK

Posted on Tuesday, January 16, 2018 at 4:46 pm

By Charlie Reed
For the News-Gazette
Hundreds gathered in Kissimmee Monday to honor civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. and talk about the continuing struggle for equality for all people.
“We still have miles to go. The battle is not over. We must fight on,” said retired Judge Belvin Perry Jr., keynote speaker at the event hosted by Osceola Visionaries. An Orlando native, Perry was the first African-American elected to Florida’s Ninth Judicial Circuit, where he served for 25 years before retiring in 2014.
Perry, whose father served as one of Orlando’s first two African-American police officers, was

News-Gazette Photo/Martin Maddock
Retired Judge Belvin Perry Jr. was the keynote speaker at an event hosted by Osceola Visionaries to honor Martin Luther King Jr.

elected in 1989 and earlier that year was the keynote speaker Osceola Visionaries first annual MLK dinner.
“Human progress is not automatic or inevitable. We must be willing to sacrifice and suffer and fight for justice,” said Perry, a graduate of Tuskegee University and the Thurgood Marshall School of Law.
Over the years, the gathering has become a who’s who of Osceola County, well-attended by local elected officials, judges, law enforcement officers and community activists. Monday’s event was delayed slightly because of the large turnout.
Great strides have been made since Martin Luther King Jr. helped ignite the civil rights movement and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which President Lyndon B. Johnson signed into law that year, Perry said. The landmark legislation aimed at overcoming legal barriers – at the state and local levels – that prevented African- Americans from exercising their right to vote as guaranteed under the 15th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
But more work needs to be done, Perry said.
“It is time for us in this nation to stand up, unite and speak up. The vote is our power to economic opportunity.”
But money doesn’t solve everything, Perry said. Too many people, he said, equate success with having a big house, a fancy car, cool clothes or a big bank account.
“Success is about self-fulfillment and it begins with the seed of purpose, the joy of giving and blossoms with change that benefits all mankind.
All God’s children should have food and clothing and shelter and all the things they need for life. We must help our brothers and sisters realize the American Dream,” he said. “We must follow the issues, make our voices heard at the elections and before the elections.”
Quoting King, Perry said:
“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”
The MLK holiday was first observed at the federal level in 1986 after being sanctioned by Congress and the White House three years earlier. It falls on the third Monday of January, near the slain civil rights leader’s Jan. 15 birthday.
King, an American pastor, is remembered most notably for his non-violent approach to civil disobedience.
He was assassinated while speaking at a Memphis hotel in 1968, 50 years ago this April.