CRB marks 50 years of building racial bridges

caines | 5/16/2013, 5:30 a.m.

Bernice King slated to address the role of civil rights in the 21st century It was June 11, 1963 when the Miami-Dade County Commissioners, following the urgings of a multi-racial group of local religious leaders representing a variety of faiths, created the Community Relations Board [CRB]. The faith-based leaders issued a statement that both clarified their request and indicated their concern that trouble was inevitable due to racial problems both here in Miami and across the U.S. We proclaim that racial prejudice, discrimination and segregation are a violation of justice and an affront to the dignity of man, said the clergymen in their proclamation that was signed by Catholic and Episcopal bishops, the director of the Council of Churches [Luther C. Pierce], the president of the Jewish Rabbinical Association [Rabbi Solomon Schiff], the head of the Negro Ministerial Alliance [Rev. Edward T. Graham] and the president of the Miami NAACP [Rev. Theodore R. Gibson]. Now, 50 years later, the CRB is preparing for its golden anniversary conference, that will bring together high school and college students, civil rights leaders, grassroots activists, elected officials and members of the community. The two-day conference, scheduled for May 22 - 23 at Miami Dade Colleges Wolfson Campus, will discuss ways to create a more harmonious community where all people are valued. The Rev. Bernice King, youngest daughter of slain civil rights icon Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., will be the keynote speaker during the Conferences Thursday luncheon. CRB chairman, Dr. Walter T. Richardson, 64, says the work of the CRB remains vital because of the undercurrent of racism and racial injustice. The CRB is responsible for recognizing racial tensions and then mitigating those tensions by providing a forum for dialogue and doing all we can to prevent escalation to the extent of civil disturbances, said Richardson, who is also the pastor emeritus of Sweet Home MBC a church he led for 26 years located in South Miami-Dade. We have had our share of racial strife. But Blacks also know that we are still disenfranchised and that preferential treatment is given to Hispanics that make up 60 percent of Miamis population. They [Hispanics] have had opportunities that allowed them to do well economically but other races, particularly Blacks, have not been afforded that same courtesy. The CRB does a lot of behind the scenes work too. Right now we are working with youth and teaching them how to respond to negative issues and negative outcomes. Many of them are on edge as the case against George Zimmerman approaches and we want to make sure they remain calm, no matter what the verdict. Ronald Fulton, 50, the uncle of the late Trayvon Martin and a member of the CRB, says he wants to have faith in the judicial system but realizes that Blacks still are not treated equally. We have to be honest with ourselves and admit that sometimes the powers that be, fail to protect the rights of Blacks. When I think about the upcoming Zimmerman trial, I have mixed emotions. I hope for justice for Trayvon but just in case, we are teaching our youth that they cannot respond with violence as there are other ways to more effectively engage the system.