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Birmingham honours legacy of Martin Luther King

PEOPLE POWER: Martin Luther King gives his famous speech (PA)

“THE GREATEST tribute we can pay Martin Luther King is to become the dream he had 51 years ago,” so said community activist Terrence Wallen who was one of several keynote speakers at a showcase in Birmingham to celebrate the legacy of the civil rights icon.

Wallen’s upbeat message focused on the positive, saying its was vital to celebrate the journeys our parents made from the Caribbean almost 70 years ago with their hearts full of dreams for a better life.

The annual showcase, organised by Audrey Hayles-Parkes, of Inspiring a Generation and Garry Stewart, founder of the community black history group Recognize, was held for the first time in the newly opened Library of Birmingham. It was a sell-out event with people travelling from as far as London and Nottingham.

Hosted by Rebecca Hemmings, the four-hour tribute was a vibrant mix of entertainment and inspirational speeches, all staying faithful to the ‘dream’ message.

Selina Brown, who runs an empowerment network for women called Little Miss Creative, told the packed audience that “a dream without action is merely a wish.”

And she went on to explain how last year she single-handedly took her own charity mission to the Gambia delivering essential items to children in two suitcases with no external funding.

“It was a life-changing moment to see those children smile and I did this with no real financial aid, just self belief,” said Brown, who asked the audience to call out their own dreams.

Stephanie Pitter took to the stage with two of her children to tell of her dream to get enough people to support her campaign to have black history taught in schools as part of the national curriculum.

While Horace ‘H’ Barnes, of the group WAWI – Why are West Indians in This Country – said it was important to still fight for freedom.

TRIBUTE: Terrence Wallen speaking at the event

He brought on stage regimental standards from the Caribbean and said: “These standards show that for hundreds of years Caribbeans have been fighting for freedom but have not been given any recognition.”

He said Luther King would probably have been influenced by the Harlem Battalion of the First World War, the Tuskegee Airmen and the 333 Field Artillery Battalion who held back the Germans during World War Two.

Veteran civil rights activist Maxie Hayles, as he read out the letter Luther King wrote will he was in jail in Birmingham Alabama in 1963, said the civil rights icon’s words were enduring and timeless, containing a universal message.

Desmond Jaddoo, founder of Birmingham Empowerment Forum said it was crucial that the black community demanded a level playing field “to create a better future for our children.”

He said: “We have to believe in ourselves because no one else will do it for us. We are oppressed because we allow ourselves to be, and we have become insular. But change is going to come because everyone one of us is that change.

“We no longer have to have a dream because we are living the dream. Let’s stand together and rise together as one community.”

Garry Stewart, founder of Recognize, organised a powerful photographic slide show of Luther King’s life and finest moments.

Artists who took part ranged from young people’s groups such as the Aston Performing Arts Academy and Tru Street Academy, to Basil and Candice Gabbidon, Lil’ D Morgan, Khaliq, Carrol Mapp, Mikey G, Antoya Lee, Iseah Mendez and Emmah Beckford, Gospel Central, The Pheiron, Yvonne Love, Lytie, Wandarin Dragon and Lorna Harris.

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