Ellison to MLK crowd: ‘Be encouraged’

Keith Ellison, front runner for the Democratic National Committee chairperson, delivered the keynote address during the prayer breakfast.

Ellison to MLK crowd: ‘Be encouraged’
January 19
10:00 2017

Photo by Timothy Ramsey

Keith Ellison, the front runner for DNC chairperson, speaks



More than 1,000 people gathered for the annual breakfast on the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday Monday, Jan. 16, in the Embassy Suites Pavilion downtown to hear what appeared to be a blueprint for success for the Democrats in 2018.

“If you and I are going to succeed in this era, we must go to the people.”

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

“This movement is not about one person, but it is about our common struggle to elevate dignity and humanity, and if we will dedicate ourselves and never quit and never stop,

and always move forward, never back away … then we will win. So be encouraged.”

The Chronicle and the Ministers’ Conference of Winston-Salem and Vicinity sponsored the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day Breakfast Forum, also known as the Prayer Breakfast.

This year was seen as significant because of the challenges 2016 brought for African-Americans.

District Judge Denise Hartsfield, the mistress of ceremonies, mentioned the hard truths that came about in 2016, such as the attack on rights in North Carolina 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.

Ellison praised Dr. King and civil rights icons such as Georgia U.S. Rep. John Lewis, who said in a recent interview that he doesn’t consider President-elect Donald Trump a legitimate president and he will not attend his inauguration.

Dozens of Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives have said they will join Lewis by not attending the inauguration ceremony that will transfer presidential power to Donald Trump tomorrow, Jan. 20.

Ellison announced on Monday away from the prayer breakfast that he will be one of the lawmakers who will not attend.

On Monday at the breakfast, he talked about how despite racism in the United States, there are ways to overcome. He said in the new movement, people have to return to the grassroots of the Civil Rights Movement, support each other and form lasting relationships; promote inclusive action and reject racial division, such as when working for common causes, like social justice regarding wages; tell stories about health care issues to encourage each other and work toward action; ask workers to help fund campaigns, not just the people with money; and “Most of all what we’ve got to do: We’ve got to reorient our thinking back toward love.”

He said that government “tells us that ‘there’s not enough, we’d like to help you, but there’s not enough, and because there’s not enough, we’re looking out for us, not you.’ They argue scarcity, but we have to argue abundance. We have to argue there is enough.”

“If we will organize, if we will unify … to rely on the small donors to fuel our campaigns so our accountability will run to the small donor, not just the big guy, but to the small one then that should lead to success.”

Ellison spoke about how North Carolina’s Moral Monday protests have been effective.

“You should take heart, because John Lewis got hit on the head, but John Lewis got up again,” he said.

Ellison told audience members they should “thank God almighty that you have been born to a moment when you have been put to the test. And you can either fail the test or you can step up and pass the test, and to win the test all you got to do is be brave and have faith.”

Ellison referenced a chant that Mayor Pro Tempore Vivian Burke had the audience recite: “America, America, my country. We move forward. We don’t step back.”

She introduced elected officials at the breakfast.

Ellison’s younger brother, attorney Eric Ellison, introduced him. Eric Ellison is president of the Forsyth County Democratic Party.

Mayor Allen Joines brought greetings to the crowd.

The Rev. Dr. Lamonte Williams, president of the Ministers’ Conference of Winston-Salem and Vicinity, gave a charge to the community.

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

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.

More details about the Prayer Breakfast can be found in the MLK Jr. Day insert in today’s Chronicle.

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Donna Rogers

Donna Rogers

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