The progress Martin Luther King Jr. made toward equality will never be forgotten. More than 300 community members and dignitaries gathered Friday night to remember that progress and honor those following in King’s footsteps.
At the Palmetto Youth Center’s 25th Annual MLK Awards Banquet, the community praised those who don’t get the recognition they deserve for their contributions.
“Too often, we have community heroes that slide under the radar,” said Chief Judge Charles Williams, who presided over the banquet.
Among the award winners was Sen. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, who earned the Edgar H. Price Jr. Humanitarian Award, which is named after a legendary local senator who was known for connecting with his constituents. Galvano said he knew Price personally and looked up to him as a mentor.
“I always tell my wife and kids that if I could be remembered half as much as Senator Price, I would’ve fulfilled all of my dreams,” Galvano said as he accepted the plaque. “And to have that linked to someone as legendary as Dr. King is incredible.”
School Board of Manatee County Superintendent Dr. Diana Greene won the Louise Rogers Johnson Humanitarian Award for her efforts in leading the district to accolades such as increased academic and financial performance.
The winners of the Jan. 4 MLK Speech and Essay Contest were presented with cash prizes and plaques as well.
John Johnson Jr., owner of Johnson Printing and a Manatee native, was the winner of the Small Business Owner Award. He said he owed his ideology of equality and compassion to his parents, who raised his family to hold those core values dear.
“For those who don’t know me, I’m a product of my family,” Johnson said. “There was no color. None.”
The pastor of Mt. Carmel Missionary Baptist Church, Rev. Alfred James, earned the Government Award. He told the audience that change comes from within, but only if they step up to do so themselves.
“If you see something going on that you don’t like, you have to be the one to step in and make that change,” James said.