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Black Pastors Protest Dixie Highway Name In Lake Worth Beach

Wilkine Brutus
Bishop Melvin Pinkney of New Life Zion Temple lead Black Lives Matter chants in front of the Lake Worth Beach city hall along Dixie Highway.

Black church leaders and members of the Lake Worth Beach community staged a protest outside of a scheduled city commission meeting.

About 50 to 60 demonstrators, young people and long-time residents of various racial and ethinc backgrounds, wore face masks, raised protest signs, and chanted “no justice no peace” in front of city hall along Dixie Highway. 

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The religious leaders, who’ve lived and served the community for decades, represent four different Black churches, each demanding symbolic and concrete changes in the city: Economic help. Police reform. And the renaming of Dixie Highway.

The people gathered on the highway’s intersection say the name “Dixie” symbolizes the confederacy; when they walk through it everyday, it evokes a racist past. The rally was in response to the 3-2 vote against a resolution proposed by Commissioner Omari Hardy, which sought to urge Palm Beach County commissioners to rename Dixie Highway.

Bishop Melvin Pinkney of New Life Zion Temple says the commission is “kicking the can down the road” and he finds it ironic that the commission is “delaying racial progress on a street named Dixie.”

"We know what a name come from. So that all of that flusters up. You know, with the George Floyd killing? It’s just too much. You know, we got COVID-19. We've got people out of job. We've got people sick. We've got people dying. It's just too much,” Pinkney said.

“People don't even want to hear racist things right now. People don't want to hear about Dixie Highway. People don't want to hear about the Klansman.” 

Bishop Pinkney said the name conjures up images of the “Jim Crow” days. Black religious leaders joined together because “we’re supposed to be on the frontlines for our people. We’re supposed to be on the frontlines for our community.” 

The commission also went against Commissioner Herman Robinson’s proposal to establish a task force that addresses systemic racism in a population that is 60 percent Black or Hispanic, according to the U.S Census.  

Credit Wilkine Brutus
Ann Levie, a 60-year-old retired health professional, Yoga teacher and community activist, said she made the Black Lives Matter art beneath her umbrella.

The proposals were rejected by Mayor Pam Triolo, Vice Mayor Andy Amoroso and Commissioner Scott Maxwell who wanted to hear input from the community before moving forward. 

Ann Levie says she grew up in a white progressive home. The 60-year-old retired health professional, Yoga teacher and community activist says the multiracial protest is a symbol of the progress that needs to be sustained.  She believes the “artery glorifies the old south.”

“I know that you're aware that this town was actually founded by people that were previously slaves,” Levie said. “Why can't we celebrate them? The Jameses, Fanny and Samuel James. Could you imagine? Fanny started the first post-office in the whole town.” 

“And it’s not like it’s the first time it’s been done. Riviera Beach already snapped to it and so did Miami-Dade.”

Several people driving down Dixie Highway honked their horns in support of the message. And one white man in a pickup truck, during the interview with Levie, screamed “get a f---ing life” to the demonstrators.

“Get a life? Are you kidding me? We’re talking about preserving life,” Levie responded.

Grant Chapel AME Church and Church of God and Christ also took part in the demonstration. The religious leaders say they plan to continue protesting.

Pastor Tony Cato is the leader of New Hope Missionary Baptist Church. He says the community wants to see action. 

“Dixie Highway is a word that reminds me of a sad past,” Cato said. “No one should want to remind me as their brother or sister or someone that they care about at all, remind me of a sad time in their life or their history.”

Wilkine Brutus is the Palm Beach County Reporter for WLRN. The award-winning journalist produces stories on topics surrounding local news, culture, art, politics and current affairs. Contact Wilkine at wbrutus@wlrnnews.org
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