King breakfast brings Berkeley community together

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Organizers of the inaugural Martin Luther King Jr celebration at last year’s breakfast. Photo: Berkeley Chamber of Commerce

When Reverend Leslie White came to Berkeley at the end of 2009 to lead the St. Paul African Methodist Episcopal Church, he did the natural thing for a newly arrived community leader: he spoke to colleagues, officials, neighbors to get a sense of “Berkeley culture, celebrations, whatever. I wanted to know what was going on ecumenically,” he said.

Although White found plenty of landmarks in the Berkeley calendar, he was surprised that there was nothing specifically to celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. He found common cause with another new arrival at the time — Berkeley police chief Michael Meehan — and the Martin Luther King Jr. Awards Breakfast was born. The inaugural breakfast was held last year, and this year’s celebration will be at 7:30 a.m. on Monday, Jan. 21 at the DoubleTree Hotel at Berkeley Marina. 

“We wanted a celebration of Dr. King that would be comprehensive, diverse, and touch on the whole community,” White said.

This year’s breakfast also coincides with President Barack Obama’s second inauguration, which will be live-streamed during the gathering.

White said the organizers focused on a breakfast as a celebration so that the growing tradition of using Martin Luther King, Jr. Day as a day of service would not be disrupted.

“It gets in and it gets out, and those who are involved in different projects can have breakfast and go out and be inspired to do more,” he said.

“We are seeking to promote the mission and legacy that Dr. King himself embraced,” White said. “He embraced a legacy of making life better for all. We don’t try to do pomp and circumstance. We try to have good fellowship and good community in action. We’re seeding the next generation, and if this one day can expose just one person, that one day can really make a difference like a ripple on a pond.”

Tickets for the breakfast are $22, and are available from the breakfast website. The breakfast is from 7:30 to 9:30 a.m. on Monday, Jan. 21, at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel, 200 Marina Boulevard, Berkeley. Berkeleyside is a media sponsor of the celebration.

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  • Guest

    Didn’t Rev. White appear prominently in the mailer endorsing Measure S? I wonder what Rev. King would think about that.

  • Dan Gerous

    This group couldn’t be more AGAINST the teachings and dreams of Rev.King. Makes me want to puke.
    Note: The Chamber of Horror (Commerce) has been behind every police action against the people of America protesting for their right. From my little actions for the Elderly and Disabled like Arnieville to the Occupy Movements nationwide.) This would be one breakfast i would find hard to swallow but one outside this breakfast protesting these hypocrites would honor Rev. King in a way that’s appropriate.

  • Local girl

    Why is breakfast $22? does it support local organizations?

  • Discern

    There’s a difference between fighting to be an equal member of society, and living, pooping and panhandling on the street where other people are trying to walk, get to work and businesses, live their lives, make that society work. Supporters of Measure S understood that difference. It’s not compassionate or radical to support the status quo. People living on the street aren’t fighting for human rights. Walking by them on our streets, dumping coins occasionally, giving them a corner of the library to be in all day with their stuff, is not like any kind of support caring people really give one another. But voting against Measure S surely sent a statement to those who do try to support our society: “we like our Berzerkely Image more than we like you!”….dismaying…glad to hear Rev White supported Measure S.