- Last Updated on 08:12 AM 01/18/12
- BY Danielle Vaughn
Togetherness was the theme of the seventh annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Breakfast sponsored by the L. E. Coleman African-American Museum on Monday morning at The Prizery.
“Dr. Martin Luther King was all about togetherness, and that’s something we want to remember and respect, and the breakfast is the way we do that,” said Garnett Luck, president of L. E. Coleman African-American Museum. “And we always have a sell out.”
Approximately 240 people attended the event this year to hear keynote speaker Michelle Jones, and those in attendance enjoyed a hot breakfast.
Attendees were asked to bring toiletries to be donated to the domestic violence program, and those who did were able to participate in a raffle.
Jones spoke of inspiring people to be a part of their community and to make an impact or a difference in order “to keep living the dream.”
“Dr. King paid the ultimate price for our civil rights, and his dream and prosperity we still need to achieve,” Jones said.
“It’s a shame the we don’t stay involved in our unity throughout the year. It’s a shame that we rally around the monument that was dedicated to Dr. King, but we don’t carry on the movement,” Jones said.
She gave the crowd an opportunity to reflect on what they actually did for the community as she posed a question to the audience.
“What are you dreaming on doing when you leave here today?” she asked the audience. “Are you going to carry the dream and ideals that Dr. King so eloquently described into action? Are you giving back to your community through your time and talent such as volunteering for community organizations, using your expertise for the greater good, mentoring other people, helping out at community centers, and going to visit the elderly?” she asked.
“Are you helping to lift others up? Are you fulfilling the dream that we’ve all heard about or are you wasting time doing activities that aren’t important, aren’t urgent, are not meaningful and definitely not impactful?”
Jones told the audience that dreams without actions mean nothing because they’ll never come true.
“It’s time to wake up,” Jones said. “I don’t know what motivates you to get going, but if what’s going on in this world doesn’t motivate you now, all I’ve got to say is it’s time to wake up.”
“Nearly 50 years after the march on Washington for jobs and freedom, our work, Dr. King’s work is not yet complete. Our communities, families and nation face many challenges,” Jones explained.
She discussed the struggles African Americans faced during the times of the civil rights movement, and she talked about the challenges to come.
“We all have to draw strength from the struggles, from Dr. King’s belief that we are one people, and from his refusal to give up. Let’s not get trapped in what is. We’ve got to keep pushing for what ought to be,” Jones said. “Let us not forget that Dr. King paid the ultimate price for our civil rights. So because of that we have a responsibility to keep on doing what we can do to achieve the dream.”
Jones told the audience to make sure they didn’t fall under the category of accusers and excusers. She described an accuser as someone who blames everyone else for everything. She said the excuser is someone who makes an excuse for everything.
“Accusers and excusers, they sit on the sidelines, they don’t jump in, they don’t become involved, and they always say ‘somebody else will take care of that,’ and really you let life pass you by,” Jones said.
According to Jones, George Washington Carver said that 99 percent of failures come from people who have developed a habit of making excuses.
Jones told the audience she wanted them to be choosers.
“Choosers accept responsibility for their communities. They accept responsibility for their own happenings, and they accept responsibility for their own destiny. They don’t blame others. They don’t make excuses. They just choose to move forward even when the going gets tough. Even when they can’t even figure out how their going to do it and see the light at the end, they keep on choosing to go forward. They keep choosing to make that the goal, and they use the attitude of I can do it,” Jones said.
Jones said the choosers choose to be risk takers.
“Dr. King was a risk taker,” she added. “He chose to be a risk taker even knowing and even seeing that he thought it was going to be the cause of ending his life, but that didn’t stop him. He chose to keep going.”
Jones alluded to the 2008 presidential election in which Barack Obama was elected President of the United States.
“We were basking in the glow of an historical accomplishment, and for many they thought the election of a black president was the culmination of the dream that Dr. King had outlined. Well I hope you realize that wasn’t true,” Jones said.
Jones described the key message and mission behind Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech as achieving economic justice for all, especially African-Americans.
“What Dr. King understood was that in order for African-Americans to have full equality, it was more than just his children being able to hold hands with white children and go to the amusement park. What he really was talking about is that he wanted his children to be able to have the means to own the amusement park,” Jones said.
“He wanted the fulfillment of a dream that every man and woman would be afforded equal rights and the opportunity to find a job, raise their family and not have to suffer policy brutality and not to suffer laws of oppression.”
Jones said that Dr. King wanted an equal playing field for African-Americans so they too can enjoy the riches of the nation. She mentioned today a gap still exists in the education of caucasians and minorities, and the minority unemployment rate is higher than that of caucasians.
“So you see the struggle isn’t over. Electing President Obama was not the end of the dream. We still have a long ways to go. We haven’t reached the promised land,” Jones said.
“We have to focus on Congress to enact a jobs bill so Americans can work. We’ve got to tell Democrats and Republicans they’ve got to stop playing footsie and iron out of the Wall Street issues. You’ve got to tell leaders in Washington to show that they care about the poor in this country all over.”
Jones encouraged the crowd to get out and vote this year. She shared her experiences of racial profiling and visiting a poverty-stricken African-American community.
“If you want to uplift yourself, then you go and uplift someone else,” Jones said. “We’ve got to leverage our combined efforts through organizations and businesses. We’ve got to reach out to as many people as possible. If we don’t combine our collective economical, political, spiritual and cultural power with a purpose and action, then our individual efforts will be in vain, and we can never have control of our own destiny.”
Jones concluded her address saying, “We’ve got to wake up because Dr. King, he had the faith in us, and the belief that we would overcome, and the belief that we would reach the promised land, so for us we have to give back and to honor his legacy.”
Many members of the African-American community said Monday they felt it was important to remember Dr. King and were more than happy to be a part of this year’s breakfast.
“I came because of the things Dr. King has done for the American people. I just felt I needed to be here,” Thomas Coleman of South Boston said.
Barbara Dickerson of Nathalie said, “I try to attend all things that have to do with Black History Month and Martin Luther King Day to keep the dream alive.”
Coleman and Dickerson both agree the dream must stay alive and that Dr. King’s legacy should be remembered for generations to come to achieve his dream.
“Dr. King is one of the greatest leaders the black people have had, therefore we must keep the legacy going and see that his dream comes true,” Coleman said. “Because of Dr. King, we have freedom of assembly, we can vote, go to restaurants and not be served through the back door. We don’t have to sit on the back of the bus, and there are opportunities for everybody.”
“We worked so hard to get civil rights so in order to maintain it, we have to keep working at it because it’s not finished yet,” Dickerson said.