The tenth annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Breakfast drew a crowd of around 275 people to honor equality and economic justice on Jan. 20 at the LongHorn Steakhouse on Iris Drive, Conyers. The Rockdale County Branch NAACP and the Conyers-Rockdale Chamber of Commerce hosted the event.
Keynote speaker Douglas Hooker, executive director of the Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC), cited King, former South African President Nelson Mandela and anti-colonial Indian activist Mahatma Mohandas Gandhi as describing “genuine brotherhood being more precious than all the world’s riches.”
ARC is an overall planning agency for all Metro Atlanta counties, including Rockdale. King’s messages of racial harmony and helping the poor must be remembered, Hooker said, as the region trends toward increasing diversity and persistent poverty.
Metro Atlanta was 70 percent white in 1990, but today is about 50-50 white and people of color. By 2040, Hooker said, black and Hispanic people are projected to be the region’s majority population.
“We’re going to be living and learning and worshiping in closer proximity than ever before,” Hooker said. “Will we be closer together in harmony or closer together in tension?”
About 15 percent of Metro Atlanta’s population lives at or below the poverty line — and 20 percent of children do, according to Hooker. Many more are at risk of falling into poverty, he said.
“Gandhi often said that poverty is the worst form of human violence,” Hooker said. “Our children in poverty are under attack every day… It’s a vicious cycle, and we all have to work to stop it.”
Whatever a person’s race, religion or sexual orientation, Hooker said, “no matter what, they are us and we are them. It’s not ‘We Shall Overcome.’ It’s ‘We must overcome,’ if we really are to be who we were born to be.”
Pastor William Headd of Millers Chapel Baptist Church led a singing of “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” historically known as the “Negro National Anthem.” Pastor Dexter Kilgore of Standing in the Gap Christian Ministries led the audience through the spiritual “We Shall Overcome.”
Others offering prayers included Pastor Cindy E. Causey of Pleasant Hill CME Church and Pastor Billy Moss and Elder Dan Gilland of Rockdale Baptist Church.
State Sen. Ronald Ramsey provided a state proclamation supporting the event. Other elected officials attending included County Commissioners Oz Nesbitt and Richard Oden; state Reps. Pam Dickerson, Tonya Anderson, and Dee Dawkins-Haigler; and Probate Court Judge Charles Mays. DeKalb County Sheriff Tom Brown, who is challenging U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson, also attended.
Rockdale NAACP President Willie Gibson and Chamber President Fred Boscarino emceed.
Chamber Chairman T. Pat Cavanaugh, also publisher of the News, said in opening remarks that because King died too young, “it’s up to us to fulfill his mission… Rockdale’s a great place for that. It’s a great community that allows that to happen.”
LongHorn donated the breakfast food. The admission fees will go to support the United Way's programs on building economic self sufficiency and fighting homelessness.