MLK Day 2020

Today is MLK Day.
It’s a special day.
A day to reflect. A day to take stock. A day to look back and a day to think about our future.
We are challenged by this holiday and by the legacy of Dr. King to do more, be more, love more and envision a more perfect union.
We have come a long way but we also have a long way to go. We see that there are forces in our society that would take us backward. We cannot let that happen. Not as Americans and not as residents of our local communities.
I worry about race relations in our country. But I also worry about race relations in our city. I see the fissures. I see the cracks. I can sense the anger and the frustration.
We would be foolish to ignore it.
Division doesn’t just go away. It takes an effort to build bridges and to mend fences.  It takes both love and strength. One cannot exist without the other.
Below are ten of my favorite MLK quotes.
I hope you find as much inspiration in these words as I have throughout my life.
Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
“The time is always right to do what is right.”
“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?”
“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”
“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”
“We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”
“There can be no deep disappointment where there is not deep love.”
“Only in the darkness can you see the stars.”
“There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe nor politic nor popular, but he must take it because his conscience tells him it is right.”

Remembering MLK On His 90th

The list of people I admire is long.

But my list of heroes is a short one.

For me, hero is a special term reserved for people who are extraordinary souls. Some, like my father and grandfather, are quiet heroes. Others are giants who have changed our world or at least tried to.

Martin Luther King Jr., is a hero of mine. And millions of others too. Today we celebrate his legacy on what would have been his 90th birthday.

MLK’s message and his mission are both timeless and important. The issues he devoted and gave his life for –are still front burner in our society. Depending on how you look at it, that’s either depressing or inspiring, maybe a little of both.

We have undoubtedly made progress in the 51 years since MLK was taken—violently—from us. But we still wrestle with racism, hatred, violence, inequality, opportunity, education, health care, discrimination and a host of other ills.

Perhaps that’s the human condition—maybe as imperfect beings we never quite reach the Promised Land or achieve the dream—but it would sure be nice to slay a problem or two.

It would sure be nice to say ‘remember those days when people couldn’t afford health insurance?’ or ‘could you believe that there were once homeless people in America.’

We are a long way from the Promised Land.

In so many ways we are stuck.

Stuck with old ways of thinking, stuck with old biases and stuck in an endless battle with the other team, side, party—you name it.

I don’t hear a lot about what unites us these days. I do hear the endless cacophony of what divides us and it’s like fingernails on a blackboard.

Liberal elites, snowflakes, crazy conservatives, Trumpers—labels that divide.

Our leaders are not uniting us so therefore they are not leaders. They are combatants locked in an endless battle that will never end, can never end and it is doing tremendous damage to our nation and our standing in the world.

I am not suggesting that people give up their principles and pretend to get along but I am suggesting that the way we “debate” in this country is ruinous. We are not getting anywhere; the shutdown is a good example. We are willing to risk our economic growth, screw up airports (more than they already are), deny 800,000 families paychecks (not to mention thousands of contractors), hurt our farmers and destroy morale because our “leaders” have failed to come up with a coherent and comprehensive immigration policy for our country. Ironic, since we are a nation of immigrants.

On this MLK Day, a day when we are called to reflect and act on Dr. King’s dream we ought to look beyond Washington to our local communities as well.

Here, on the ground, we also see plenty of division in our communities over issues large and small.

Look no further than the future of the West Atlantic corridor to see the divide.

Thanks to years of work, the Delray CRA has amassed enough property to do an impactful project on the gateway of our city. There’s pressure to get it right and pressure is good because it should serve to focus the powers that be on the opportunity and the possibilities. But I sense some distrust in the process and while that may be inevitable, leaders need to recognize that distrust and face it head on.

It’s a teachable moment. Leaders wait for these moments. They are a chance to engage the community, dispel rumors, gather input and anchor the project to a bigger vision. If that opportunity is seized and we choose a good project it will build trust and community pride. If that opportunity is lost, the opposite happens.

MLK is a hero of mine because he exuded hope in a better future. That’s leadership—instilling fear is not leadership. Fear is easy to stir, but hope is real. It’s fuel—fuel to build a better world as MLK envisioned all those years ago.

 

 

 

MLK Day 2018

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” ~ Dr. King.

I have always been in awe and intrigued by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
In awe of his oratorical genius and intrigued by his message which is eternal and as relevant as it has ever been.
This MLK Day—which would have been Dr. King’s 89th birthday—arrives at a teachable moment. Let’s hope we learn. Because clearly we have a lot to learn.
In 2018, we are still struggling with race, still wrestling with hatred and violence.

Our discourse is often disgusting, violent, hurtful and ignorant.
We are better than this..we better be.
America is an idea, not a race Sen. Lindsey Graham noted this week.
We were built on ideals and values. But those ideals and values—freedom and equality chief among them—have always been locked in a struggle with forces that would deny both.
It was that struggle that MLK devoted and ultimately lost his life pursuing.
He was not alone.

Many others have been devoted to Dr. King’s dream, which is the promise of America. Many others lost their lives too. Or died before we can truly proclaim that we as a people are free at last.

This blog assiduously avoids national politics. But sometimes what happens in Washington touches us here in our community.
And so the President’s comments on immigration whether “tough” —as he asserts they were —or profane —as was widely reported impact us. They affect us in profound and deep ways.

I have long contended that Delray is America in 16 square miles.
We have it all here. Rich and poor. Young and old. We are a rich tapestry of ethnicities that make us a fascinating and culturally rich community.
I’ve have always felt our diversity was an immense strength. But while I think we have navigated some very hard issues better than many cities in America, I still believe that we wrestle with race in Delray Beach.

That does not make us unique. But I’ve always believed we had the potential to be a national example for how we can to work to build trust, create opportunities and solve challenges through dialogue, collaboration and commitment.
All three elements are critical.
Dialogue: because how and even if we converse is important.
Collaboration: there can be no progress unless everyone works together.
Commitment: communities have to commit to the long term, otherwise you will lose traction and often slide backwards.
So how are we doing?
You be the judge.
I think we need work in all three areas.
Our dialogue often includes talking past each other which makes it hard to collaborate. And commitment can’t come just during an election cycle. It has to be the way you roll. All the time.

My Delray experience has been blessed by relationships with a slew of civic giants who devoted themselves to equality, healthy neighborhoods, education, history, civil rights, politics and economic opportunity.
People like C. Spencer Pompey, H. Ruth Pompey, Elizabeth Wesley, David Randolph, Zack Straghn, Bill Condry, Yvonne Odom, Red Odom, Vera Farrington, Mr. and Mrs. Strainge, Beatrice Tyson, Ernestine Holliday, Frances Carter, Sam and Loretta McGee, Jimmy Weatherspoon, Tony Newbold, Rev. Thomas, Nadine Hart, Joe and Carolyn Gholston and the list of leaders goes on and on. They taught us that progress was possible through dialogue, collaboration and commitment.
Today, I see that legacy live on through initiatives like the Community Land Trust, The Knights of Pythagoras, SD Spady Museum, The Elders, the EJS Project and the promising Set Transformation Plan championed by the West Atlantic Redevelopment Coalition. Of course there’s more, which is why Delray Beach is so promising. It’s why we remain a beacon.
All are in service to and in pursuit of MLK’s Dream.
It’s in all of our interests that they succeed. It’s up to all of us to ensure that they do.

Realizing The Dream

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“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” Martin Luther King Jr.

 

Today, we celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Dr. King believed that America could be a beacon for every other nation on Earth. The United States could extend opportunity to everyone regardless of their skin color or identity.
He believed that America would reach its potential if we created a society where people were judged not on the basis of the color of their skin but on the content of their character.

It’s a powerful idea and an enduring one.
Dr. King wished for and worked toward a post racial society. He gave his life in pursuit of his ideals.
Rep. John Lewis gave his blood.

The  Atlanta area Congressman was in the news over the weekend when he questioned the legitimacy of the presidential election and was in turn criticized for being all talk and no action. This blog does not wade into national politics but suffice it to say that spilling your blood for a cause qualifies as action.
Regardless of where you stand politically, race is never far from the American conversation. And so as we mark MLK Day 2017 and remember the remarkable life, words and achievements of Dr. King we also must acknowledge that living in a post racial society remains elusive.

New York Times arts critic Wesley Morris says we are actually living in a “most racial society”.
In discussing the incredible artistry of playwright August Wilson Morris writes:  “We’re living in an identity first culture and a time in which those identities are being pitted against one another for political sport.”
Indeed.
I have lived in Delray Beach for nearly 30 years and race is a major factor in the history, present and future of our city.
It lies at the heart of the failure of our commission to abide by our charter and appoint a replacement for a departing commissioner and it figures prominently in discussions relating to development, jobs, public spending, policing,  elections and representation in our community.
While we are a diverse community and while we rightly celebrate that fact, we remain extremely segregated in our churches, neighborhoods, friendships, sports leagues and community organizations.
It was the first thing I noticed moving here from New York in 1987–because it is stark and unavoidable.
When I served as mayor, I pushed a race relations initiative that had its triumphs and its failures because I sensed a desire for unity and because I was convinced that conversations and dialogue might bring people closer together. When people get together and look each other in the eye (as neighbors seldom do these days) they quickly realize that they share more in common than they might otherwise believe. They aspire on behalf of their children, they worry about their jobs and finances. They just want to get home safe.

We used to hold “study circles” to foster dialogue and community dinners too–where neighborhoods that ordinarily wouldn’t interact got together to eat and talk. These were simple things, but to this day,  a decade or more later I still run into people who enjoyed those dinners and long for the interaction. In a world where we hide behind screens and keyboards and pass judgment on people we don’t know, these simple human activities are more valuable than ever and in danger of being lost as we segregate ourselves with groups and people who look and think like us.
On the spectrum of Dr. King’s vision of a post racial society and today’s “most” racial society I fall decidedly on the side of MLK.
But while dialogue is essential and important, action is critical.
I have seen lots of progress in many areas over the past 30 years and some areas where we are plain stuck.
Tens of millions of dollars have been invested in neighborhoods once ignored. Attempts have been made and are being made to bring jobs and investment to areas of town that have experienced blight and flight.
Much of that investment has been made as a result of citizen visions and political leadership. That’s action. And we ought to be proud of it. Not many cities can match our record.
But more needs to be done, should be done and I believe will be done.
But the progress will be sustained  only if we tear down barriers that divide us.
I’m not referring to branding and identity efforts which seek to enhance pride and marketability.
But rather attitudes that define investment as a zero sum game or people who seek to pit one group against the other to serve their narrow and selfish needs. Be wary of people who label, divide, bully–especially those who claim to speak for the majority. They most often do not.
MLK’s life was also devoted to economic empowerment and opportunity.
Part of “the dream” was to see our children thrive in a society that offered abundant opportunities for all.
I have longed believed that once the capital investment was made in streets, parks and housing we could focus on the immense human capital that exists in Delray Beach.
Initiatives that focus on health, education, entrepreneurship, technology, leadership and the local economy are available to us and can and should involve the private sector.
The potential is limitless. The opportunities are boundless.
We live in a small city that I call America in 16 square miles.

We’re a fascinating blend. We have come a long way. We have proven that progress is possible.
I remain a believer.

That the best is yet to come. That the dream is not only possible but that it’s more desirable and relevant than ever.
It’s up to us to turn the dream into reality. We know how to do it.

MLK Day: Quotes Sure to Motivate

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We’re  strong believers in the power of words.
We’re also firm believers in the power of leadership to facilitate transformational change.
In honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day we offer some of our favorite quotes from one of our favorite leaders.
Enjoy, dream and more important put these thoughts into action:
“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”
“Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”
 
“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
 
“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?”
 
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
 
“I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”
 
  “The time is always right to do what is right.”
   “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
 “Forgiveness is not an occasional act; it is a constant attitude.”
 “Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.”
 “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.”

 “Never succumb to the temptation of bitterness.”

 
“We may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now.”

 “Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into friend.”

 “There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must take it because conscience tells him it is right.”

“If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.”

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MLK“On some positions, Cowardice asks the question, “Is it safe?” Expediency asks the question, “Is it politic?” And Vanity comes along and asks the question, “Is it popular?” But Conscience asks the question “Is it right?” And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must do it because Conscience tells him it is right.”
MLK