In the wake of the 51st celebratory Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend, Florida’s capital city dedicated a highway to local civil rights leader Curtis Kenzie “C.K.” Steele.
West Orange Avenue at Capital Circle SW now dually serves as the C.K. Steele Memorial Highway. Saturday’s dedication ceremony drew community members and local and state officials. Throughout the ceremony leaders from across the state spoke on behalf of the honor.
U.S. Rep. Al Lawson led the series of speakers with a speech discussing both his memories of Steele alongside his hopes for the future.
“I am honored to be alive to see the honorable designation. I am proud to see change. I encourage all both old and young to stay involved and strive for change.” said Lawson. “Thank you all for the opportunity to work hard in Washington D.C., it is because of great leaders like Rev. C.K. Steele that I am here today.”
State Sen. Bill Montford followed Lawson and spoke eloquently about the honor that this renaming dedication signifies.
“This highway is notably the first street visitors see on their way to the city. It is an honor to name the entrance of the city after such a great man,” Montford said.
A multitude of public officials discussed the strife that Steele experienced throughout his life, from cross burnings on his front lawn to personal attacks from KKK members. Steele’s family was there to both honor their kin and pay tribute to his courageous life.
“I am very proud of my daddy,” Pastor Derek M. Steele said. “A lot of people don’t realize that in the house of where the persecution is being aimed at is the wife, my mother, and although I don’t remember much about the bus boycott itself — I remember my mother crying.”
Florida A&M University President Larry Robinson revealed his hope for when people visit Tallahassee. “My only hope is that people will be inquisitive as they drive along this road, and wonder about who is this person after whom this highway is named,” he said. “Hopefully they will take the time to learn about his great deeds and his legacy, maybe they will be touched by his spirit and be inspired to continue his great work.”
Lawson had the honor of revealing the street sign. FAMU’s chapter of Collegiate 100 Black Men of America volunteered during the event. Student member Kemy Eliassaints, 20, a mechanical engineering major from Fort Lauderdale, was impressed by the event. “I was very moved. I hope that others are looking for ways to make a change in their communities and at FAMU.”