Several hundred people gathered Wednesday at Athalie Range Park in Liberty City to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.
In a memorial service titled “Reclaim the Dream,” a series of civic figures spoke, offering their thoughts on the renowned civil rights leader and leading the crowd in a reflection of King’s work and his principles.
Local leaders also spoke out against gun violence. Miami Commission Chairman Keon Hardemon, who represents the district, recalled several instances of mass shootings in cities across the U.S. in recent years — Las Vegas, Charleston, Orlando and Parkland — in an impassioned speech.
“We have to declared that this senseless violence must stop,” he said.
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The remarks were followed by performances from gospel singers Shirley Caesar and Kirk Franklin.
On Tuesday, the city unveiled a new sign commemorating King at the southwest corner of Northwest 62nd Street and Sixth Avenue.
The sign, erected at the Interstate 95 ramp on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, depicts King and features two phrases: “Injustice Anywhere Is a Threat to Justice Everywhere” and “The Dream Lives.”
Hardemon, Miami Mayor Francis Suarez and Public Works Director Juvenal Santana, whose department was charged with developing the sign, spoke at the unveiling.
Beautifying the city’s public spaces is essential to the pride of its residents and every street named for King must be well-kept in honor of the civil rights leader, Hardemon said.
“In many cities, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard is a reflection of that legacy of excellence,” Hardemon said in his speech. “The beautification is lacking in so many different places, and we could no longer have that exist in the city of Miami.”
Suarez said he was honored the city was commemorating King and spoke publicly of his impact.
“When I think about legacy, you think about the gifts that Dr. King left us with,” Suarez said. “Everywhere you go around this neighborhood, there are reminders of who he is, of what he said.”
Two murals honoring King extend beneath the I-95 underpass at MLK Boulevard. One, located in front of the new sign, was created by artists Colleen Kelley and Nicholas Nehaniv and features King delivering a speech in front of an American flag. The mural on the opposite end, featuring a pensive King with a purple backdrop and colorful shapes surrounding him, was created by the MLK Mural Project (Moving the Lives of Kids).
Liberty City Trust President Elaine Black, whose organization was entrusted with finding artists for the artwork, said the murals and the sign are a beautiful addition to the community and commemorate the memory of King.
Gabriel Poblete writes for South Florida News Service.