PORT RICHEY — The celebration started with a march from a nearby church to a crowded classroom, where pictures of Martin Luther King Jr. were set against windows.
In Port Richey, the African-American Club of Pasco held an event honoring the man at the former Booker T. Washington School on Pine Hill Road. The Gulf High School Band greeted people with jazz music before the crowd took seats.
The Union Missionary Baptist Church choir sang and stepped left and right in rhythm to gospel music. Educator Patrick James read an excerpt from a King speech, and two men dressed in black with silver face paint and white gloves mimed a performance to spiritual music.
The keynote speaker was Marvin Dunn, who recently wrote a book called The Beast in Florida: A History of Violence Against Blacks about racial crime in Florida, and he shared some of his own experiences with racism. He said when he was a child, the only black history he learned was about Booker T. Washington and George Washington Carver.
"That was it," he said, "it was as if they wanted all of us black folk to grow peanuts."
He told an anecdote of travelling alone on a bus from Florida to Georgia, and how his parents warned him to stay in the back. When he moved to the middle, some white teenagers entered the bus. He said he was called a racial slur and told to move, and when someone stuck up for him that person was called a slur. "Look how far we've come, from that to a black president," he said.
Other community members attended and spoke, including Pasco County Tax Collector Mike Fasano, who called King "the symbol of the struggle to overcome all forms of oppression."
"Even though his body was silenced by an assassin's bullet," Fasano said, "his voice lives on."
State Rep. Amanda Murphy, D-New Port Richey, spoke and asked the crowd if King would be satisfied with the state of things today. Many answered no.
"He'd be grateful," she said, "but not satisfied."