Another year, another set of events celebrating the life and teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
DeLand’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, in its 52nd year, comes at a fraught time. The nation is still grappling with the murder of George Floyd more than two years ago, recalling the Black Lives Matter protests of 2020 and dealing with their subsequent backlash, including Florida legislation signed into law in April 2022 that regulates how Black history is taught in schools.
Locally, the city of DeLand and residents have addressed the racial gap. In 2022 alone, a series of inclusivity trainings was launched through the MainStreet DeLand Association, residents voted for and await a streetscape on West Voorhis Avenue, in the historic area of an important local Black business district, and Black-history murals have been unveiled, among other points of progress.
MLK Committee and new events
Change has also come to DeLand’s MLK Committee, which oversees the multiple events around MLK Day. Several new members have joined, including Committee Chairman Eugene Collier, along with Kevin Caine, Angela Dallas Johnson, and event coordinator Dr. Andre Darby.
Darby, a singer and producer with deep ties to the community, aims to invigorate and diversify the annual event.
“I want to diversify the community more with our celebration. I want to reach out to the local churches … one of my goals is to put more diversity in the choir as well,” Darby said. “Another big goal of mine is there’s this certain age group that’s kind of missing. I want to bridge the gap and get more young people involved with the celebration.”
This year, along with the traditional breakfast at Stetson University and march through Downtown DeLand, followed by a celebration at Earl Brown Park, is a three-on-three basketball tournament at the park. There will also be a concert on Saturday, Jan. 14, with Grammy Award winning gospel performer Dorinda Clark-Cole, and performances by the MLK Community Mass Choir.
“MLK’s leadership and his bravery and his courage changed the course and the journey of the Black community as a whole,” Darby said. “This one particular weekend out of the whole year is an opportunity to celebrate and commemorate Dr. King.”
Catching up with NAACP President Sean King
For West Volusia NAACP President Sean King (no relation to the slain civil-rights leader), there is work to be done.
“It’s a responsibility of a community to remind us and not just to have events but to have a reminder, what was his actual dream? And we’re still not there yet,” King told The Beacon.
“At work, we use a matrix to measure everything. If you’re not measuring success, then what are you doing?” King asked. “What is the number of black businesses in this area? What is the average household income in this area? Is it improving? No, it’s not.”
King pointed to a speech MLK gave three years after his famous “I have a dream” speech.
“There’s a later speech, where Martin Luther King says, the dream has become a nightmare. Why did he feel in that second speech that the dream has become a nightmare?” King asked. “What did he foresee? And maybe it’s what we’re seeing today: The erasing of history. People still in the same situation we were in 50 years ago.”
Continuing MLK’s legacy, his dream, requires remembering the past and carrying his ideals forward as an individual, King said.
“We can’t just leave it up to Martin Luther King to impact the world. Each person has their own individual course that they have to take to make an impact,” King said. “And the majority of that is remembering the past to go forward. You cannot forget the past and know how to go forward.”
He added, “I’ve made a commitment to myself to always continue to learn, and learning is a big part of it: What impact did he have, what impact in my little life can I have?”
Bradley Pough to speak in Deltona
Deltona’s annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day Luncheon Celebration will feature speaker Bradley Pough, raised in Deltona, who is currently serving as associate director for policy at the Office of the Vice President in Washington, D.C.
“We want young people to see a young man from this community — who went to Yale, and then to Harvard Law School, who served on the Biden transition team, and now works with the vice president of the United States — a young man from this community, and all he has achieved,” Deltona MLK Committee Chairman Mike Williams said.
Pough spoke at the event 15 years ago, when he was a 17-year-old DeLand High School senior headed to Yale.
In a 2008 article in The Beacon, Pough was quoted on Deltona’s need for cultural diversity.
“That’s why the Martin Luther King festival and breakfast is so important,” Pough said then. “It’s something that will bring people from all backgrounds together.”
The event also features, as master of ceremonies, former County Council Member Barb Girtman.
“It’s going to be a wonderful event,” Williams said. “It’s a pretty big deal, frankly.”
Tickets for the Saturday, Jan. 14, event cost $25.
MLK events in West Volusia
■ Saturday, Jan. 14 — Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day Luncheon Celebration, Noon-2 p.m. at The Center at Deltona, 1640 Dr. Martin Luther King Blvd. Hosted by The Deltona DreamKeepers and the African American Association of Deltona, with Washington, D.C., associate policy director Bradley Pough as the keynote speaker. Tickets (must be purchased in advance): $25. Tables seat eight. Call Mike Williams at 386-804-6136.
Community Worship Service, 3-6 p.m. at City Sanctuary Church, 401 E. Taylor Road in DeLand, featuring the MLK Choir and Dorinda Clark-Cole. Free.
■ Sunday, Jan. 15 — Martin Luther King Jr. Coed Softball Game, 4 p.m. at the DeLand Little League Fields, 403 S. Alabama Ave., DeLand. The game is free to watch and participate in. Participants should arrive earlier than 4 p.m. to play.
■ Monday, Jan. 16 — Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day Signature Breakfast, 9 -11 a.m. in Stetson University’s Hollis Center Rinker Field House, 602 N. Bert Fish Drive. Mayor Chris Cloudman and Stetson University President Dr. Christopher Roellke will speak. STAR 94.5 radio host JoJo Oneal will be the host. Tickets: $20; free for children with advance-purchase tickets (must be accompanied by an adult). To purchase tickets, call Andre Darby at 386- 302-8740.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day Historic March Through Downtown, DeLand Lineup begins at 11 a.m., leaving from Stetson University’s Rinker Field House, 602 N. Bert Fish Drive, and ending at Earl Brown Park, 750 S. Alabama Ave., DeLand.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day ‘Festival in the Park’, Noon-4 p.m. at Earl Brown Park, 750 S. Alabama Ave., DeLand. Music by Trae Pierce & the T-Stones; other entertainment; food vendors; 3-on-3 basketball tournament. Free admission.
■ Anytime — Keep up with what’s going on across West Volusia with The Beacon’s calendar of events, published each week in the EXTRA! section of your weekly newspaper or online here.