It felt like all of Berkeley was represented at yesterday morning’s Martin Luther King breakfast celebration down by the bay.
They came from seminaries and temples, political groups, law enforcement, schools, neighborhood associations and government departments — our assemblywoman, mayor, and chief of police were there, as were many church and community leaders, councilmembers, teachers, students, business men and women, and children. (Watch the slideshow of photographs, above, by Nancy Rubin.)
On a crisp winter morning, nearly 400 local people gathered to mark Martin Luther King Day, to share breakfast and to watch together live-streaming of the inauguration of the 44th President of the United States.
In a morning full of poignant moments, perhaps the most memorable was the story recounted by Pamela Harrison-Small, Executive Director of the Berkeley Alliance. Harrison-Small told of being a young student at what was then Lincoln School in Berkeley during the period of desegregation of the city’s schools. She and her best friend Norah Cody, of the Cody’s bookstore family, decided to protest. By Harrison-Small’s admission, the girls were a little confused about what they were protesting about. However this was Berkeley in the 1970s and taking action was de rigueur. The pair boycotted the school bus and marched down Woolsey Street in defiance of their parents and their school, chanting “No desegregation.” It was only later, when the driver of the bus, an African American woman, came to Harrison-Small’s home to explain what desegregation was, that the two friends realized their mistake.
For Harrison Small that incident, and her life in Berkeley since, has convinced her that as a city “we have common ground.”
The breakfast, held at the DoubleTree Hotel at Berkeley Marina, one of the few local venues that could accommodate the capacity crowd, was presided over by the Reverend Leslie White of St. Paul African Methodist Episcopal Church.
“We come together as good people in good spirits to have a wonderful time,” he told Berkeleyside. “But it’s also about change and marking not just the lineage and history of Martin Luther King, but his goal to ensure we all lead better lives.”
Police Chief Meehan presented two awards at the event. A lifetime achievement award went to Reverend Dr. Marvis Peoples of Berkeley’s Liberty Hill Baptist Church, who was described by Pastor Michael McBride of The Way Christian Center as “a consistent voice of justice and integrity.” The Rev. Peoples stressed that there was still much to be done to cure society’s ills. “The fight has just begun. There are too many kids on the street being destroyed. Too many going uneducated. We must stand on each other’s shoulders and fight to get things done.”
And two 12-year-old 7th graders from King Middle School — Anjuli Arreola-Burl and Allie Bailey –were presented with Next Generation Awards for, respectively their art work and written work.
The Reverend Dr. D. Mark Wilson, Musical Director of the UC Berkeley Gospel Choir, sang, as did Atty. Shanee Nelson of St. Paul Church, and Berkeley City Auditor Ann-Marie Hogan. The Berkeley High jazz band provided foot-tapping music.
The theme of the annual breakfast — the second to be held here — was “Beloved Community” and it did feel that for two hours, on a day an African-American president was sworn into office for a second term and a man of vision was remembered with a day of service, that the Berkeley community did indeed come together as one community.
Berkeleyside was proud to be an in-kind sponsor of the Berkeley 2013 Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration.
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