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31st Annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Leadership Awards Breakfast
Keynote speaker Roslyn Brock, chairperson of the National Board of Directors for the NAACP, gave a rousing speech to a full audience that had members of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s family in it.
BY FRANK DROUZAS, Staff Writer
ST. PETERSBURG – The St. Petersburg Metropolitan Section of the National Council of Negro Women (NCNW) held their 31th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King Leadership Awards Breakfast Mon., Jan. 16 at the historic Coliseum in downtown St. Pete.
“We celebrate today the life and legacy and the man that brought hope and healing to America,” said Master of Ceremony Mark Wilson of Channel 13, noting that only about 100 people attended the inaugural Leadership Awards Breakfast while the event now draws more than 1,200 attendees.
He noted the importance and relevance of the Day of Service, which “empowers us as individuals here, strengthens our communities, bridges barriers and creates solutions for the number of social problems we have today, moving us closer to Dr. King’s vision.”
Keynote speaker Roslyn Brock, chairperson of the National Board of Directors for the NAACP, said for some, MLK Day observances have become mere obligations and cultural courtesy—diversity and inclusion events replete with symbolism, yet devoid of sincerity.
“Each year during this time African Americans mentally prepare themselves for rousing renditions of ‘I Have a Dream’ speeches,” she said. “We listen attentively to spirit-lifting renditions of the Civil Rights Movement’s mantra sung by multi-cultural bands of starry-eyed schoolchildren locked arm in arm in an inextricable web of destiny as they innocently proclaim certainly that we shall overcome!”
Brock said that the substance of Dr. King’s dreams was simply this: “Treat me like you want to be treated. It’s the Golden Rule. Philosophically, it’s a dream for all races, all nationalities and all creeds can live together in unity.”
In our nation, we’ve made tremendous strides toward this goal, she said, yet despite our best efforts, we still live in a world where there is economic injustice, pervasive poverty, racism, discrimination, bigotry, hatred, misogyny, xenophobia and homophobia.
Far too many Americans are denied jobs by the content of their character, Brock said, and remain alienated, “living on the margins of society” because they are judged by the color of their skin, where they live, their country of origin, or whom they love.
She noted that race still matters in this country, and the “pendulum of justice is swiftly moving backwards” for the impoverished and communities of color. In 2017, amidst a rising tide of hate speech, it’s clear that “we must reboot our civil right agenda, and call our brothers and sisters home from the corporate suites to the community streets for a family meeting,” she stressed, adding that the topic of discussion must focus on economic stability, education parity and health equity.
“My friends,” she said, “we are the ‘they’ who must do something about the conditions in our community. But most importantly, we cannot rely on anybody to do anything for us that we ain’t prepared to do for ourselves!”
Brock quoted Dr. King from his 1957 speech, “A Realistic Look at the Progress of Race Relations” and urged educated people to “rise up” and use their academic power to make a difference for the common good.
“‘Don’t use it to divorce yourselves from the masses, don’t use it to live in some aloof ivory tower where you are merely a spectator,’” she quoted. Never forget that you are where you are today because the masses helped you get there!’”
Paraphrasing a “divinely inspired” quote about “rising up” from the Book Psalms, Brock proclaimed, “St. Petersburg, I stopped by this morning to ask you that question: Who will stand up to speak out about the disparities in our society? Who will stand up and join forces with…voices with the women of NCNW in public squares, in sanctuaries, in mosques, in synagogues, in temples and jurisdictional meetings and convention centers, corporate suites and city streets to boldly proclaim that all lives matter, but most certainly, black lives matter?”
She urged that people cannot remain silent while all-white supporters spew hate speech and violence without condemnation, while a criminal justice system that is “warehousing” a generation of young men and women because of racial profiling racist and while “overzealous” police become the rule.
Brock said a continued silence on so many critical issues of the day—particularly concerning safeguarding education and assuring affordable healthcare—sends a signal “that you believe all is well in our communities.”
Too many corporate, political and faith leaders have isolated themselves in insular political and social circles where they “have attained status, but lack substance.”
“They get caught up in this whole idea about ‘me-ism,’” she said, adding that “service to others is truly the rent we pay for the space we occupy.”
Brock urged everyone to accept the call to leadership and become “involved participants and not detached spectators.”
“Now is the time for the walls of mistrust and confusion to be torn down,” she said. “Our faith and belief in the beloved community depends on our ability to grab hold of Dr. King’s dream that found strength through struggle, power through perseverance and liberty through love.”
The morning continued with the awards presentation to community leaders who have made an extraordinary personal commitment to serve humanity.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Leadership Awards
Rev. Louis Murphy, Sr.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Humanitarian Award
Pastors Jay and Kara’lynne Brubaker of Positive Impact Church
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Faith Based Recognition Award
Rev. Louis Murphy, Sr. and Mt. Zion Progressive Missionary Baptist Church
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Youth Educational Incentive Award
Jada Guzman, Eriana Redix and Aldric P. Griffin II
Brittany Bria Gordon Excellence in Achievement Award