SCLC salutes community drum majors for justice

BY ALLEN A. BUCHANAN, Staff Writer

ST. PETERSBURG – Pinellas Technical College (PTC) played host to the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Pinellas County (SCLC) and their second annual Drum Major For Justice Community Awards Breakfast.

Donald Dowridge, Jr., who dressed up in the likeness of Frederick Douglass, was the Master of Ceremonies and Jeffrey Parker provided The Youth Welcome.

“Everyone repeat after me: ‘I am the future,’” said Parker. After the second attempt, the room resonated with his affirmation.

This year’s breakfast was sponsored by Attorney James Flynn, Your Southside Lawyer. He shelled out money from his pocket to make the event possible.

Around 350 people attended this free breakfast honoring positive role models in the community, about 100 more people than last year.

“We’re targeting people that will not have an opportunity to go to the other MLK breakfast,” said Jeffery Copeland, executive director of the SCLC speaking about the breakfast put on by the National Council of Negro Women. “We are free; show up and eat and enjoy yourselves.”

Copeland and Toriano Parker, president of the SCLC, in recent years have jump-started the Pinellas County chapter after lying dormant for four years. In that time, the SCLC has sponsored food drives, given away turkeys on Thanksgiving and with the help of Flynn started a free shuttle service for the elderly.

“We are a true grassroots organization,” said Copeland. “We help people all year long. I’m dedicated to helping the underprivileged and underserved.”

The audience reflected a future sparkling with hope as multiple ethnicities and religions hugged, shook hands and cordially greeted each other. The PTC rotunda had been transformed into a village of harmony and diversity. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. would have been proud.

Keynote speaker Louis Murphy, Jr. credited his success as a professional NFL player with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to his family and people in the community who worked with him to build strong character, a sense of purpose and an anchored spiritual foundation.

A sentiment Copeland echoes. “It’s about getting our families together back as one. I believe the crime rate will go down if we keep our families together.

Brother John Muhammad reiterated his desire to work with all people in the community, no matter what their religious affiliation or race, to forge a brighter future for the family, the community and the city. He was one of seven Community Awards recipients who have made it their civic duty to provide a web of community services to directly meet the needs of senior citizens and specifically young adults.

Community Service Award Recipients

Lyn Johnson | Community Service Award

Nikki Gaskin-Capehart | Community Service & Government Award

Tamara Felton-Howard | Women’s Drum Major For Justice & Equality Award

Kameel Stanley | Community Service Award

Brother John Muhammad | President’s Award

La Shante Keys | Role Model Award For Young Men

James E. Flynn “Your Southside Lawyer” | Humanitarian Of The Year Award

Accepting the Community Service Award in media for Johnson, who was unable to attend, was her aunt Irene Pridgen. She praised her niece for embracing and expanding the iconic newspaper that her brother, Cleveland Johnson, started with $40 in 1967.

Copeland presented Flynn’s parents with their son’s award for Humanitarian of The Year Award because he was under the weather and unable to attend.

“He used his own money to purchase a custom Mercedes Sprinter passenger van to provide transportation for the elderly who has no other means of transportation,” said Copeland.

The awards breakfast was immediately followed by The Gathering of Women, Inc. 2015 MLK Day of Service project called Man Camp Youth Summit. This summit for youth ages 13-19 focusing on the challenges facing minority youth in education, health, mental health, the juvenile justice system, adolescent parenthood, sisterhood/brotherhood, and positive self-development.

More than 60 participants of the summit attended the breakfast and feasted, alongside the rest of the crowd, on catfish, grits, bacon, eggs and sausage catered by Blue Nile Market on 16th Street South.

“It’s about the people, not me,” said Copeland humble to the bone. “I love people. I don’t care if your white, black, purple or green, if you’re people I love you.”

A perfect sentiment to honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s legacy and close out the Drum Major For Justice Community Awards Breakfast.

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