2016 events fuel MLK Jr. Day Breakfast

2016 events fuel MLK Jr. Day Breakfast
January 19
05:00 2017

Photo by Tevin Stinson

Few empty seats were left Monday morning inside the Embassy Suites Pavilion as more than 1,000 people attended The Chronicle’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. Breakfast.



More than 1,000 people gathered for the annual breakfast on the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday Monday, Jan. 16 at the Embassy Suites Pavilion. This year was seen as significant because of the challenges 2016 brought for African-Americans.

“There is something about this King Day celebration that will resonate with us forever when we realize what 2016 brought us,” said District Judge Denise Hartsfield, mistress of ceremony for the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day Breakfast Forum, sponsored by The Chronicle and the Ministers’ Conference of Winston-Salem and Vicinity. The event is also known as the Prayer Breakfast.

“We are to be gladder than ever, that we had Dr. King, that Dr. King stood for what he stood for, and fought for what he fought for,” she said.

Hartsfield quoted from the Black National Anthem, “Lift Every Voice and Sing”: God of our weary years, God of our silent tears, thou who hast brought us thus far on the way …”

“In a time when it looks like rights are trying to be taken away, when it seems as though every time we go high they find a way to go lower, we need to stand to our feet this morning and give that God of our weary years, give that God of our silent tears, that God who has brought us thus far along the way hallelujah and glory for being God all by himself and that He promised never to leave us alone.”

Hartsfield was talking about the attack on rights in North Carolina, especially voting rights, and the election of Republican Donald Trump over Democrat Hillary Clinton, who received about 3 million more votes than Trump but lost the Electoral College vote. The College decides the president of the United States under the U.S. Constitution.

King would be 88 years old this year.

U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, the front runner for the Democratic National Committee chairperson, was the keynote speaker at this year’s breakfast. (See the Jan. 19 Chronicle for the story.) He is vying to lead the Democrats as they reorganize to win elections in 2018.

The Big 4 Choir provided selections, including “Oh, Freedom.”

Chronicle advertising employee Shayna Smith recognized sponsors.

Speakers at the breakfast included Winston-Salem Mayor Allen Joines, Mayor Pro Tempore Vivian Burke and the Rev. Dr. Lamonte Williams, president of the Ministers’ Conference of Winston-Salem and Vicinity.

Joines said, “I believe Dr. King might be horrified in what he sees going on in our state and our nation.” What Joines mentioned for the state was fear-mongering linked to House Bill 2 and the redistricting plan that the court ruled discriminatory. Joines said Dr. King would say, “We can’t settle into a false sense of complacency and accept the next four years as the new normal.”

Burke, who recognized elected officials, had the audience recite a chant: “America, America, my country. We move forward. We don’t step back.”

Williams, who gave the charge to the community, said, “All men are created equal.” He quoted Dr. King regarding the “interrelated struggle of humanity.” He outlined a charge to the community, including: “Apply equity and social justice with the lens to all that we do moving for-ward.”

Ernie Pitt, publisher emeritus of The Chronicle, Winston-Salem’s oldest continually published weekly, earlier welcomed the audience and thanked readers and sponsors.

He then spoke about the times.

“I say to you this morning, that what will determine where we are in history, it will depend on which road we take. For many in the broader community, it will continue to be as it always has been: the good times. For others of us in the minority community and those who support us, it’s time for some serious decision-making.”

He talked about how “the game” for minorities is not what it’s thought to be. Minorities are playing checkers when the game is chess, in which bold moves make one a winner. He urged the audience not to be afraid “to use whatever we have and whomever we have to our advantage.”

He announced the formation of the Ernie Pitt Scholarship Foundation, which will partly be connected to the Department of Communication and Media Studies at Winston-Salem State University.

“The climate has changed,” Pitt said. “We have to make sure that our students know the game.”

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Donna Rogers

Donna Rogers

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