King celebration gives mayor Gillum perfect setting to call for unity
By Ashia Glover
R&B music blared through Cascades Park, while families browsed rows of art and craft vendors. Another row of food vendors had a steady flow of customers not too far away.
The Monday afternoon scene was perfect for celebrating the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. It also provided a platform for Tallahassee mayor Andrew Gillum to point out the relevance of the day in spite of the current political climate with the election of Donald Trump.
Trump’s election has incited divisiveness and a sense of concern around the country — just the opposite of what King stood for.
But Gillum used Monday’s celebration to emphasize how Tallahassee could make a difference that’s more in line with what King represented.
“As mayor of a city I have to do everything I can in this community to make us a more resilient community; to let this community see the kind of demonstration of equality and love and celebration of differences as we can be,” Gillum said. “I don’t know what the nation is going to look like but I know what we can make Tallahassee look like.
“I’m committed to trying to make the world better; my own part of the world here in this community. I think all of us have to assess for ourselves how we are going to spend these next four years. I hope that it’s spent in trying to bring communities together instead of tearing us apart.”
Gillum wasn’t the only one in the park that was concerned about how equality will play out with Trump in the White House. Marcus Curtis and his wife, Sherri, took time between bites of food they had just purchased from one of the many vendors to share their view.
“I think that we could actually be a better community with the diversity and understanding that although people are different yet we are the same,” said Marcus. “I think it’s an interesting concept to see how this new (Trump) administration is going to approach the diversity aspect of it.”
With Monday being a holiday, teenagers mingled in the crowd and seemingly were just as captivated by the music being played on stage by the Tallahassee Nights Live band. And the food, too.
“I had a pulled pork sandwich,” said Shemya Stephens, a 15-year-old sophomore at Lincoln High School. “It’s really good. It was $5 (and) it’s really good for $5. It’s pretty big.”
She didn’t forget why she was at the park, though.
“I came out to celebrate Dr. King’s legacy with my cousins,” she said. “He pretty much helped African Americans not use violence to solve their issues and to solve it through talking to people. I think that was good because you have to be patient to get things that you want.”
Some of the vendors were regulars at events like the King festival. Then, there were others like first-timer Angela Hawkins Garfield, an artist from Crawfordville.
Some of her work was a depiction of the current crisis of police involved shootings. She laid it out in a picture that showed a red road divided by dead Black bodies lying on one side, while law enforcement officers stood on the opposite side creating a blue wall.
“I don’t want to offend people, but certain stuff still needs to be seen in order to know what’s going on in the country, and what’s going on to our people, and I’d like for my art to have a voice but I also want to keep the peace, so it’s a delicate balance,” Hawkins Garfield said. “You don’t want to insight a riot. It’s MLK Day but it is what’s going on in the world.”
Gillum obviously knows as much, but he believes there is hope in sticking with what King taught.
“I don’t think we are all the way there,” said Gillum, “But I do think we are on the right road (where) we ought to be able to try to create a society that is more equal, and more just, and more equitable; that values people for what they bring to the table and not what they superficially look like.”