PALMETTO — Just a few days shy of President-elect Barack Obama taking office, community members gathered Friday night at the Palmetto Youth Center to recognize community members in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream.
“There is no question in my mind Martin Luther King Jr. paved the way for this historical event,” said Palmetto Mayor Shirley Groover Bryant, reflecting on Tuesday’s upcoming Inauguration Day when Obama will become the country’s first African-American president.
Across the country, people remember King for his nonviolent approach to civil rights and his dream for equality between all people.
“He believed his vision was important enough to die for. ... Each year his life, dreams and achievements are remembered,” she said.
Speakers at the 15th annual Humanitarian Awards Banquet at the Palmetto Youth Center ranging from students to politicians recalled the connection between King’s dream and Obama’s election.
Attorney C.J. Czaia, who presided over the banquet, contemplated on what kind of president Obama will make.
“Imagine we have a president of the United States who taught constitutional law. He’s intelligent and he knows law and he just happens to be African-American. ... I think he realizes you change the community — you change the country — one person at a time,” he said.
Several area residents were recognized for their contributions toward creating change in Manatee County.
n Judge Charles Williams received the Edgar H. Price Award. Williams was appointed circuit judge for the 12th Judicial Court. He is a member of various organizations and is on the board of directors for the Palmetto Youth Center.
n Jeanette Eubanks Kelly, a retired teacher, received the Louise Rogers Johnson Award. Kelly volunteered teaching children many hours after school and most recently worked with the Manatee Democratic Headquarters to get out the vote for the presidential election.
n Marie Alvarez, owner of Alvarez Mexican Restaurant, was honored with the Seymore E. Sailes Award. Alvarez’s business provides food to many civic organizations and hosts a complimentary meal for the community every year on Christmas Day. She also worked for migrant families to make sure their children are educated through Manatee County schools.
n Carol J. Chamberlain, a retired child-abuse investigator, was awarded the Community Service Award. Chamberlain worked to create an emergency shelter for children. “It shouldn’t hurt to be a child. ... We are not done yet. We still have lives to save,” she said in her speech Friday night.