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MIAMI BEACH (CBSMiami) – As South Florida and the rest of the nation took pause Monday to honor the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., his son Martin Luther King III was a special guest at the National Trial Lawyers summit in Miami Beach.
The discussion focused on race relations in America and also included prominent women’s-rights attorney Gloria Allred, and Ben Crump, attorney for Trayvon Martin’s family and the family of Michael Brown who was killed by a white police officer.
Decades have passed since the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Junior spoke about a dream of equality in a speech that for many defines the civil rights movement. What would he think of the recent events? What would he think of Trayvon Martin, an African American teen from Miami who was shot and killed by a watch guard in Central Florida?
What would he think of Michael Brown, the teen shot and killed by a white officer in Ferguson, Missouri?
And what would he think of Eric Garner who died in New York after a white police officer put him in a chokehold?
CBS4’s Cynthia Demos spoke with Martin Luther King Junior’s son, Martin Luther King III.
When asked about what he thought his father might say about the situation today, he replied, “Well I think number one, I don’t know that any of us could speak to what he would say. What I will say is that if he lived and Robert Kennedy lived, our nation would be on a different trajectory.”
Martin Luther King III said his father would focus on pulling the nation together.
Also on Monday’s panel was the attorney for Trayvon Martin’s family, Ben Crump.
“I think this is the start of the conversation,” he said. “We’ve come a long way and we have a long way to go.”
Trayvon’s dad also weighed in.
“They’re trying to improve the system. We all know there’s a disparity in the system. It’s good to see the trial lawyers and civil rights lawyers coming together and trying to rectify the problem,” said Tracy Martin.
Famed attorney Gloria Allred said, “I am 73 years old. I’ve fought for civil rights my whole life and if there is a way to fight from beyond, I will.”
The attorney who defended George Zimmerman, the watchman acquitted of killing Trayvon Martin, said the system needs help but isn’t totally broken.
“I don’t think the system is completely broken,” said Mark O’Mara. “I still think it’s the best system that we have and has ever has existed in the world.”
A recent report shows 17-percent of people polled in 2014 said race relations are good or great compared to 34-percent who said race relations were good or great the prior year.
Cynthia asked Martin Luther King III, “Are we going backwards?”
He replied, “I don’t want to acknowledge or embrace the fact that we may be going backwards. I think we are just making small progress and we got a long way to go.”
MLK III said all communities need to focus on teaching compassion, diversity, understanding different cultures and races and implement this from kindergarten to high school in order to raise people with a better understanding of how to treat people.
Overall, this group agreed that 2014 was not a good year for race relations but they all say they are optimistic that things will move forward in the right direction in 2015.