Today was the National celebration for the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday. If he were alive today it would have been his 84th birthday. His legacy lives on through so many people. But his work to make his “Dream” come true has not ended. We are not living in a post-racial/racist state, but that does not mean it is not far away.
There were a few themes that I heard today from so many different celebrations around the world in honor of #MLKDay2015. One was the emphasis on honoring him through a day of service, for his work was based on service to the community. Another theme was celebrating his memory through parades and events, as any hero should be. The most inspiring theme was that of the continued and determined since of hope that so many have for a better future for all people.
I had the wonderful opportunity to attend the National Action Network’s (NAN) National Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s awards breakfast. This is an annual event held in Washington, DC where leaders in the Civil Rights movement come to celebrate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. They also give inspirational speeches that rejuvenate. The Rev. Al Sharpton is the founder of NAN and he always opens the event with an inspirational story about why he continues to be a solider in the movement.
Today he told the story of growing up in Brooklyn and living with cockroaches and how he went to the kitchen in the middle of the night a saw the roaches running all over the counter and table. He was upset about this and went to tell his sister who was fast asleep and did not believe him. She got up and went to the kitchen, turned on the lights and the roaches scattered away so she did not see them. He told how this happened three times, until he realized that the roaches swarm around and have fun in the dark causing destruction. But when the light is shown on them, they scatter and run into their hiding places. Rev. Sharpton said as long as the roaches are out there causing destruction, he is going to continue to shine a light on them.
It was an interesting metaphor for the work he continues to do each day. This past year with the killings of Eric Garner of New York and Michael Brown Jr. of Missouri and the lack of indictments for both of their murders has proven that the work for justice continues. “No Justice, No Peace” this strong mantra of the movement continues to be a battle cry for the work!
Rev. Sharpton and the NAN staff did a fabulous job with the program. There was a video showcasing their work over the past year. The Administration sent Sec. Sylvia Burwell of the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and Sec. Julian Castro of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to speak about the work of President Obama and the National Day of Service. Then there were a number of awards presented to a great group of social justice advocates.
There are four awards presented each year. The first award was for Economic Justice Award which was presented to James Reynolds, Jr., Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Loop Capital. The second award titled Breaking Barriers Award was presented to Jacqueline Berrien, Former Chair, U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commissioner. The third award was the MLK Merit Award and it was presented to Flyod W. Greene III who is Vice President of Community Relations and Urban Marketing. The final award was for Lifetime Service Award which was presented to August Y. Thomas.
Ms. Thomas is the National Vice President Women’s and Fair Practices (AFGE). Although she was unable to be there, she was well represented. Ms. Thomas went to school and grew up with Dr. King and is one of the few people still alive who knew him prior to his leading The Movement.
The guests at the NAN MLK breakfast included some of the nation’s top leaders in the civil rights movement, some of whom are former award recipients. The speeches given by the awardees were inspirational for all in attendance. We have much work to do but with this group of inspiring, smart and dedicated people my since of hope is very much alive.
I am blessed to live such a life. This is my second NAN MLK Breakfast. Last year I attended as a guest of one of my dear friends who is a prominent Voting Rights Lawyer. This year it was an honor to be invited by Janaye Ingram the Executive Director of NAN.
For more information on the National Action Network (NAN) go to: http://www.nationationactionnetwork.net Follow them on Twitter:@NationalAction and Instagram: nationalactionnetwork
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