Boca MLK march carries forward ‘Dream’ for neighborhood revitalization

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By: Diane Emeott Korzen Contributing Writer

Boca Raton city leaders joined church congregants and community members for a morning Martin Luther King Day March down Federal Highway on Jan. 20.

Developing Interracial Social Change (DISC) and Ebenezer Missionary Baptist Church co-sponsored an 8 a.m. community breakfast before the 10 a.m. March to Mizner Park.

The march began at 102-year-old Ebenezer Baptist Church, which was formed before the ‘Town of Boca Raton’ was ever incorporated in 1925.

Ebenezer Baptist is one of two sister churches both founded in 1918 in the historic Pearl City neighborhood, circa 1915, just south of Glades Road between Dixie and Federal highways – Ebenezer Baptist at 200 Ruby St. and Macedonia African Methodist Episcopal (AME) at 128 Pearl St. – reportedly established about 6 months earlier.

The neighborhood originally housed blue-collar African Americans working at Boca Raton Resort, area farms, construction and other jobs.

“This neighborhood [Pearl City] and Old Floresta are the oldest parts of the City,” said 35-year Ebenezer church member John E. Brown, who spoke of a joint service with B’nai Israel held at the church for the last 36 years on the Sunday before the march.

Also, just north of Glades, is the historic Lincoln Court neighborhood.

In 2002, Boca City Council had the area declared a historic district, and repaved streets that had fallen into disrepair in the low-income housing section which includes Dixie Manor housing project, a property of Boca Raton Housing Authority.

The 2020 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Day Jr. Ceremony, held in the empty lot just northeast of Mizner Park, brought once again to the forefront a dream for the neighborhoods and community to come together, to bring about revitalization.

Mayor Scott Singer thanked DISC leaders and the residents of Pearl City and Lincoln Court “who have offered ideas for greater revitalization of these neighborhoods.”

He said that City Council had recently approved funding for a series of neighborhood-led Community Meetings to discuss the ideas from Pearl City residents on how to maintain and enhance these most historic areas of Boca Raton.

Singer was joined by Palm Beach County Commissioner Robert Weinroth and Boca Council members Monica Mayotte, Andrea Levine O’Rourke and Andy Thomson at the event.

“With the input of professional planners who have offered their expertise to fulfill residents’ visions, we look forward to the coming start of these meetings and the discussions we hope will make our community stronger and more vibrant,” he said.

Singer added that Boca City Council had allocated $20,000 in Fall 2019 toward a pilot program involving the historic neighborhoods. He said no date has been set, yet, for when official Community Meetings would start, but in talking to DISC and Rev. Henry Willis he found that some conversations between the neighbors had already taken place.

Neighborhood Revitalization Coordinator for Habitat For Humanity Crystal Spears noted in her speech that, “Recently people in the community have come together. Only when people feel good about themselves, and we tend together to basic needs, [such as housing, can progress happen.] Wiping back tears, she said she was “Extremely grateful to the Lincoln Court and Pearl City community. Without you, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”

Boca Raton Community High School Marching Band and drum majorettes led the march, followed by politicians, members of Boca Raton Interfaith Clergy Association, DISC and the community.

Among those walking was Gay Kranick, mom of artist son John Kranick who created a striking portrait of Dr. King using little scraps of magazine when he was a student at Boca High School. He graduated in 1992.

Kranick carried the portrait throughout the march, placing it at the foot of the podium where speakers deliver their speeches, so all could have a visual reminder of what the holiday stood for.

“After everything he [Martin Luther King] did, today I thought to myself, I can carry this. So I took this picture off the wall!”

County Commissioner Weinroth recalled being just 11-years-old in August 1963 when MLK delivered his ‘I Have A Dream’ speech at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C.

“I remember hearing his voice; though the gravity probably didn’t register,” he said.

Weinroth spoke of the impact of Courage left by Civil Rights Leaders during a turbulent time; with JFK assassinated in November 1962, Malcolm X in February 1965, MLK in April 1968 and Bobby Kennedy in June 1968.

“Martin Luther King relied on his Christian faith, and the Civil Disobedience practices of Ghandi, in showing us the way to mend broken fences, and to live together,” he said. “To us in Palm Beach County, he challenges us to contribute more, and

I don’t mean financially. Rather, to join in on the struggle. If he were here today, he would not allow us to build an idol to him or pat ourselves on the back. He would want us to be awakened. Dare us to work together.”