OC Honors MLK

Published 3:05 pm Wednesday, January 17, 2018

By Dawn Burleigh

The Orange Leader


From a gala, a march and a protest of a Confederate monument, residents of Orange County honored Martin Luther King, Jr. with events kicking off on Saturday.

The Blossoming Minds: MLK Gala, on Saturday, presented Bettie J. Curtis with Legend Honoree. Curtis was also included in Friday’s Congressional record as Congressman Babin read about her accomplishments.

Those present at the event honored Curtis with a standing ovation as she made her way to the stage to accept the honor.

Curtis, known for her years of teaching in Orange as she prepared youths for college and the global workplace, said it is important to help young people develop effective communication skills.

“Attitude determines altitude,” Curtis said. “It determines how far you go in life.”

Curtis gave credit to her mother for her successes.

“My mother always said you can be anything but you have to WANT to be,” Curtis said.

She also said it was not about her.

“It’s not about me,” Curtis said. “It’s about God.”

Also honored during the event were numerous organizations for being Harvey Heroes as the community continues recovering from the devastating storm.

Mariyah Orebo was named Female Student of the year and Paul Ivory was named Male Student of the year as the event wanted to put an emphasis on academic accomplishments. Teacher of the Year was Melissa Villery-Rushing.

Villery-Rushing said it was an honor to be selected.

“I love what I do,” Villery-Rushing said. “Children all dreams can come true.”

She spoke of the struggles growing up with her parents unable to read but encouraged her.

Health and Wellness Award went to Karen Riggs-Dove.

KING Impact Award winner was Bennie Smith.

The award is presented for one who has shown years of service.

“I came to Orange to stay a couple of years and have been here for 38 years,” Smith said. “Treasure is a place. Orange is a true treasure for me, my true home.”

Image Award went to MakeItHappen for the work the group does in the community.

Blue Bird Fish Camp is Business of the Year.

Man of the Year is Anthony Thomas of 6th Street Community Church.

Woman of the Year was presented to City of Orange Council member Terrie Salter.

On Monday, the Orange Branch of NAACP held its annual MLK March beginning at 2nd and Turret and ending at Orange City Hall.

Before the March began, former Mayor and City Council member Essie Bellfield reminded those in attendance, the event was a march not a parade.

A march is defined as a walk along public roads in an organized procession to protest about something while a parade is defined as a public procession, especially one celebrating a special day or event and including marching bands and floats.

Reverend Franklin Gans said he has participated in the march for over 50 years.

“There is a set of different faces this year,” Gans said during the program.

Miracle Gloston recited a poem honoring Martin Luther King. Jr.

“We have paved the way for young people as well,” Jackie Mayfield said. “Always pay homage to our ancestors. Respect our history. We [Orange] are a beacon of light for the rest of the world to honor MLK.”

Mayfield’s wife, Carolyn spoke of a rest visit to the African American Museum in Washington, D.C.

“I was not aware until we visited the museum, the NAACP was born out of something for white men who saw injustices for the Black race,” she said. “It is not a Black fight, its a for all human race fight.”

The NAACP was formed partly in response to the continuing horrific practice of lynching and the 1908 race riot in Springfield, the capital of Illinois and resting place of President Abraham Lincoln. Appalled at the violence that was committed against blacks, a group of white liberals that included Mary White Ovington and Oswald Garrison Villard, both the descendants of abolitionists, William English Walling and Dr. Henry Moscowitz issued a call for a meeting to discuss racial justice. Some 60 people, seven of whom were African American (including W. E. B. Du Bois, Ida B. Wells-Barnett and Mary Church Terrell), signed the call, which was released on the centennial of Lincoln’s birth, according to the official NAACP website.

After the program, a group of individuals met at the Sons of the Confederate Veterans monument at the corner of Martin Luther King Jr Drive and Interstate 10 in Orange to protest the construction of the memorial and in hopes the owners will consider repurposing the land.

Rustyn Ackerman, 12, participated in the March and was among the protesters on Monday.

He said he was protesting because every person counts.

“Statues and monuments belong to people who deserve them,” Ackerman said. “This belongs in a museum.”

Madison Gilley, 13, said it was her first time to participate in the March.

“I did not understand it, but I do now.” Gilley said. “I am against the monument because it is wrong. It symbolizes racism.”

Jeremy Parzen said the first vehicle passing the group as they assembled at the right of way to protest asked what they were doing before telling the group, “To get the explicit out of here.”

“I had to apologize to the ladies here with us,” Parzen said. “We won’t get anything done without bringing awareness.”

Franklin Gans was also among the protesters.

“I am in support of those protesting the monument still,” Gans said. “For it to be right here on MLK. The ordinance on the height of the flagpoles was a right step for the city.”

In April 2013, Orange City Council passed an emergency ordinance, Article 7.1500, to regulate flagpoles, flags and banners within the city. The ordinance is the same as 12.606 for the Orange Historic District, which has been in effect since 1999.

An emergency ordinance requires all to be in favor to pass. A majority vote is not acceptable in order to pass an emergency ordinance.

The ordinance states “Banners for commercial use, to exclude one U.S. and one state flag, neither to exceed four feet by six feet in size.”

Sons of Confederate Veterans, Inc. factual information packet concerning the park states the flags will be 3×5 on 30-foot flagpoles, according to a previously published Orange Leader article.