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With these voices, the civil rights chorus grew

Ella Baker began working to empower black people in the 1930s, first with the Young Negroes’ Cooperative League and later with the NAACP. Decades later, she coordinated the Freedom Rides of 1961.

Associated Press (1968)

Ella Baker began working to empower black people in the 1930s, first with the Young Negroes’ Cooperative League and later with the NAACP. Decades later, she coordinated the Freedom Rides of 1961.

Each year the nation takes the time to commemorate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Around the Tampa Bay area, there are a plethora of events to mark the late civil rights hero's life.

Born Jan. 15, 1929, in Atlanta, King is considered a civil rights icon. His persistent activism and nonviolent stance served as a catalyst for equality.

But King's struggle for rights was not a solitary climb. Countless others contributed to the necessary legal and social upheaval of that time. Though not as widely known as King, their existence and achievements contributed to the gains made during the era.

Here are a few who contributed to that progress:

Ella Baker

Considered an early pioneer of what would become the civil rights movement, worked alongside greats such as Martin Luther King Jr. and W.E.B. DuBois. The Virginia native preferred to work in the background. A granddaughter of a slave, Baker went on to graduate from Shaw University in 1927. During the 1930s, she worked for newspapers in New York and became national director of Young Negroes' Cooperative League, a black economic empowerment organization. In 1938, Baker began what would become a lifelong involvement with the NAACP, eventually ascending to director of branches, the organization's highest rank for a woman at that time. Among her chief accomplishments was the coordination of the Freedom Rides of 1961. Baker's legacy remains one of self-determination. The Ella Baker Center for Human Rights has existed for more than a decade in Oakland, Calif.

Harry T. Moore

He organized the first Brevard County branch of the NAACP in 1934. He then went throughout the state helping form other NAACP chapters. As founder of the Florida Progressive Voters League, he registered thousands of blacks. Moore and his wife, Harriette, were murdered in their home in Mims when a bomb exploded under their bedroom on Christmas Day 1951 — also their 25th wedding anniversary.

James Meredith

He was the first black student admitted to the University of Mississippi in 1962. Meredith's admission came after he was twice denied admittance. His enrollment, opposed by segregationist Gov. Ross Barnett, sparked riots on the Oxford campus that required military troops to quell. Two people were killed and several law enforcement offers were wounded. On June 6, 1966, Meredith was shot but not seriously injured during a march he led from Memphis to Jackson, Miss., called the "March Against Fear." A white segregationist was arrested in the attack.

Andrew Hatcher

He was often the face the media saw when hearing about President John F. Kennedy's decisions and policies. Appointed as the president's associate press secretary on Nov. 10, 1960, Hatcher was instrumental in shaping Kennedy's speeches. He was the first black person to hold the prestigious executive position. Prior to the post, he worked as a journalist and assisted other politicians with speech writing in their campaigns. He also served in the U.S. Army as a lieutenant during World War II.

Benjamin O. Davis Jr.

He was commander of the 15th U.S. Air Force bombers during World War II for the Tuskegee Airmen. On Oct. 27, 1954, he became first black general in the Air Force. Born in Washington, D.C., in 1912, Davis was ostracized by fellow students while a cadet at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. When he graduated in 1936, Davis was the fourth black person to graduate from the school. A conference center at MacDill Air Force Base is named after him.

Today around Tampa Bay

Tampa

• The 29th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Breakfast presented by the Tampa Organization of Black Affairs begins at 6:45 a.m. at the Hyatt Regency Hotel, 211 N Tampa St. Keynote speaker: Dr. Lawrence Wesley, president of Wesley Education Communications. $30 advance tickets.

• Parade begins at noon at Blake High, 1701 N Boulevard. A family festival is planned for 6 to 10 p.m. at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Recreation Complex, 2300 N Oregon Ave. Free.

• Interfaith memorial service begins at 4 p.m. with choir performances at Beulah Baptist Church, 1006 W Cypress St. Free.

• Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Ethnic Feast & Interfaith Memorial Service, 4:30 p.m.; feast, 6 p.m. Mount Calvary Seventh-day Adventist Church, 4902 N 40th St. Free. (813) 974-1399.

St. Petersburg

• The Martin Luther King Jr. Leadership breakfast begins at 7:30 a.m. at the Coliseum, 535 Fourth Ave. N. Keynote speaker: Dr. Bartholomew Banks Sr., president of the Florida Missionary and Educational State Convention and pastor of St. John Progressive Missionary Baptist Church, Tampa. $25 tickets.

• St. Petersburg Drum Major for Justice Parade begins at 1:15 p.m. at Third Avenue S and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Street, and ends at Vinoy Park, 500 Bayshore Drive NE. Free.

• Candlelight vigil at 6:30 p.m. at Demens Landing, Bayshore Drive and First Avenue S. Moves to St. Petersburg Museum of History, 335 Second Ave. NE, for brief program. Bring flashlight or candle. Free.

Clearwater

• 9:30 a.m. march and rally begins at North Greenwood Recreation Complex, 900 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Ave., and ends at Coachman Park, 301 Drew St. Rally speakers: Selma, Ala., Mayor James Perkins Jr. and William Floyd of the San Francisco 49ers' 1995 Super Bowl team. Free.

Dunedin

• Celebration with Shiloh and Bethel A.M.E. Choirs, Dunedin High School Steppers, programs on Rosa Parks and Medgar Evers and more from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Martin Luther King Jr. Recreation Center, 550 Laura Lane. Free.

Pasco

• West county celebration begins at noon at Sims Park in New Port Richey. Hosted by the African-American Club of West Pasco. Judge Myra McNary from Pinellas County will speak. Free.

• East county celebration begins at 11 a.m. at St. John Missionary Baptist Church, 13549 Eighth St., Dade City. Angela B, a community radio host from WMNF-FM, will speak. A reception will follow. Hosted by the East Pasco County King Day Committee. Free.

Citrus

• Crystal River parade and community celebration begins at 10 a.m. at Crystal River Middle School, 344 NE Crystal St., and ends near Copeland Park, 850 NE Third St.

Hernando

• Fish fry and family entertainment, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Kennedy Park, 899 Kennedy Blvd., Brooksville. Sponsored by the Hernando County chapter of the NAACP.

Tuesday

Tampa

• Leadership luncheon, "A New Birth of Freedom," celebrates the inauguration of Barack Obama; 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., University Area Community Center Complex, 14013 N 22nd St. $10 per person in cash at the door.

• Free traveling exhibit "And Freedom For All" showcases art at Hillsborough Community College, Dale Mabry Campus Art Gallery, 4001 Tampa Blvd. Runs through Jan. 28. Call (813) 253-7386.

With these voices, the civil rights chorus grew 01/19/09 [Last modified: Monday, January 19, 2009 3:22pm]

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