By Christina Kelso January 22, 2015 Clay Today
Original Publication Link: BREAKFAST HONORS LEGACY OF MARTIN LUTHER KING JR.
ORANGE PARK | Maude Burroughs Jackson always walked toward something.
As a child, she watched busses bound for the all-white Middleburg Elementary School roll by each day as she carried her feet and “sack lunch” more than two miles to the all-black one-room school, just across the street from their destination.
As a college student at St. Augustine’s all-black Florida Memorial College, she moved toward a dream of equality. From 1962 to 1964, her feet brought her to protest marches, to picket lines, to sit-ins, and through the “evils” that came in response on the Oldest City’s streets. Three times she went to jail, including in 1964 when she was arrested alongside Martin Luther King Jr. after attempting to eat at Monson Restaurant in St. Augustine.
As an adult and a teacher, she walked a 50-year path of activism for civil rights, reaching a major milestone when she walked through the door her classroom as one of the last teachers to work in Clay County’s segregated school system.
And, on Jan. 19, Jackson, a “Living Legend,” rested her feet. At Shiloh Church of Orange Park, she gathered with other members of the community at the Fourth Annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Diversity Breakfast to commemorate King’s life and the pursuit of the dream of racial equality that Jackson and thousands fought make a reality.
“It’s good to see the change that has been made,” she said. “When you see the things that you have talked about and marched about, when you see this in reality, then it is a good feeling.”
Jackson was one of 14 Clay County civil rights trailblazers to be highlighted as “Living Legends” in the county’s first “Living the Dream” calendar. A 2015 addition to the event’s annual “Drum Major” awards created to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, the calendar features first accomplishments by African-Americans.
This year, the event moved from Green Cove Springs to Shiloh, a venue and fellowship illustrative of King’s values. The product of the recent merging of the predominately white Ridgewood Baptist Church and predominately black Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Shiloh Baptist of Orange Park bridges what King called “the most segregated hour of Christian America,” “11 a.m. on Sunday Morning.”
For this accomplishment, Michael Clifford, former pastor of Ridgewood and the Rev. H.B Charles Jr., of Shiloh were presented with the event’s “Drum Major for Diversity Award.”
Below this unified roof, the morning’s presentation weaved together the words and experiences of different cultures and generations.
Students from Orange Park Performing Arts Academy’s Kreative Kids After School Program saluted King through 1930s-style dance – popular when he was a child – and song.
Guest speaker Berneitha McNair, executive director of the Northeast Florida Community Action Agency, honored King and discussed progress the country has made toward “the America of his dreams,” an America where “people are judged by the content of their character and not the color of their skin” and “everyone is guaranteed life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
Part of that dream has been accomplished, she said. “The election of Barack Obama, a black man, as the president of the United States of America – dream accomplished,” she said. “Brothers and sisters of Clay County, sitting together at the same table as friends, having breakfast at a diversity celebration in the southern region of the United States of America – Dream Accomplished.
She also cited the mergers of the two churches as another dream accomplished. However, some of the dream remains to be seen, McNair said, referencing the number of African-Americans who “do not graduate from high school,” “are in prison,” “do not have health insurance,” “are unemployed,” and “who are racially profiled and targeted because of the color of her skin. We have work to do,” she said.
The progress toward the full realization of this dream was illustrated as each award transferred hands on stage.
Throughout the morning, Sam Jones, a volunteer with St. Simons Church, worked behind the scenes alongside his congregation to prepare and serve breakfast to event attendees. He described the morning as a “great experience” for his congregation to come together.
“We need to still try to do what this man lost his life for,” Jones said. “As humans, we’re all one. We need to come together even more, as a human race. With all he did to get us this far, we don’t need to go back.”