2018 MLK Jr. Day Breakfast provides call to action

Keynote speaker retired Judge James A. Beaty Jr. accepts a plaque from The Chronicle given by Judge Denise Hartsfield, who served as the mistress of ceremony on Jan. 15 at the Martin Luther King Jr. Day Prayer Breakfast. Photo by Tevin Stinson

2018 MLK Jr. Day Breakfast provides call to action
January 26
14:25 2018

African-American freedoms and American civilities are extremely under attack 50 years after the death of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., speakers said, and they asked what will elected officials and the community do about it.

“We need to speak out,” said Winston-Salem Mayor Allen Joines during the Martin Luther King Jr. Day Prayer Breakfast on Dr. King’s actual birthday and the celebrated holiday, on Monday, Jan. 15. The Chronicle and the Ministers’ Conference of Winston-Salem and Vicinity sponsored the event.

King was assassinated on April 4, 1968, in Memphis, Tennessee.

Elected officials, who brought greetings and made comments about the state of the state and country at this time, used Dr. King’s words and invoked God throughout the breakfast.

Joines brought up the recent comments of current President Donald Trump, who made derogatory comments about Haiti and African countries when discussing immigration policies in a White House meeting. It occurred just days before the celebration of King’s 89th birthday and the holiday. Joines said for him, it shined a strong light on the high levels of the “moral chasm” between the America Dr. King envisioned and the America the president portrays.

“I think those comments, you have to say, were really racist,” Joines said.

He said veteran journalist Dan Rather challenged elected leaders on all levels to speak out against the actions the federal government is taking to turn back the clock.

Joines also mentioned action that the GOP General Assembly is taking toward the judiciary, trying to make judgeships partisan and controlled by the legislature.

“To me, that’s very, very serious. Our government is based on the serious system of checks and balances established by our Founding Fathers and Mothers,” Joines said. “And one of those key foundations is the rule of law and an independent judiciary. I see these legislative actions, proposed actions, as an attack on our democracy. We obviously cannot accept that,” Joines said.

Mayor Pro Tempore Vivian Burke, a longtime member of the Winston-Salem City Council, praised the progress that has been achieved in the City of Winston-Salem since 1985, when the council approved celebrating the MLK Jr. Day holiday.

The Winston-Salem Branch of the NAACP presented a special award to Victor Johnson, a veteran and a student at Winston-Salem State University in 1960 who helped lead a civil rights protest against a Winston-Salem retail outlet that had segregated lunch counters when students in Greensboro were mounting a similar protest then. The Winston-Salem protest led to the students being allowed to eat at the establishment without segregation.

“They sat down first, but we ate first,” said Johnson, who is a longtime member of the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools board.

Alvin Carlisle, president of the local NAACP chapter, presented the award to Johnson.

The CEO and president of the Winston-Salem Urban League, James Perry, and the president of the Urban League’s Young Professionals group, April Johnson, talked about what the Urban League is doing, such as releasing the first-ever State of Black Winston-Salem report.

“The need to fight for King’s dream is greater than ever,” Perry said. “We know that we have more work to do.”

Keynote speaker James A. Beaty Jr., senior United States district judge of the United States District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina, made a presentation in which he asked King what he should say to the audience at this time. He used King’s words to answer the question.

Just as a character in the 1988 Spike Lee movie “School Daze” yelled to students at a historically black college to “Wake up! Wake up!” and take notice about what’s going on around them, Judge Beaty yelled the same to the audience.

(See more about Judge Beaty’s presentation in the main Jan. 18 Chronicle newspaper.)

Judge Denise Hartsfield, who served as the mistress of ceremony, was in Atlanta celebrating Dr. King’s birthday with other students at the historically black colleges and universities in the area back in the day.

She spoke about how Dr. King brought African-American people far. She said every day we should think about the victories he achieved.

Chronicle Publisher James Taylor, who also represents the Southeast Ward on City Council, welcomed the audience and acknowledged sponsors of the breakfast, which have ads in this publication.

“We are truly blessed to stand on the shoulders of those who have gone on before us,” Taylor said. He said The Chronicle also is blessed to have so many sponsors and supporters who value the person and support the legacy of Dr. King. He thanked subscribers, his family and The Chronicle staff, too, and acknowledged his partner who owns The Chronicle with him, East Ward Council Member Derwin Montgomery.

Mischeal Goldsmith and The Bridge gospel singing group provided selections, including the song “Total Praise,” which elicited a standing ovation and some “Hallelujahs!”


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Donna Rogers

Donna Rogers

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