Berkeley MLK breakfast builds community, calls for action

Over 350 Berkeleyans gathered for the third annual community breakfast honoring the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. Photo: Lance Knobel

Over 350 Berkeleyans gathered for the third annual community breakfast honoring the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. Photo: Lance Knobel

The third annual community breakfast honoring Martin Luther King Jr. brought together more than 350 Berkeleyans for rousing addresses, joyous music, calls to action, awards to young students, and plenty of hugs.

The theme of the breakfast was “beyond the dream… standing together,” and many of the speakers emphasized the importance of the community working together on many challenges, from the academic achievement gap, to unequal health outcomes, to violence in many neighborhoods. 

Berkeley Community Youth Choir

The Berkeley Community Youth Choir provided one of the highlights of the King breakfast. Photo: Lance Knobel

The breakfast, organized by a volunteer group that includes many of the leaders of black congregations in Berkeley, the police chief, members of the business community, leaders from the school district, and officials from the university, is a relatively rare occasion when many different Berkeley communities come together for a few hours.

Most of the city’s elected officials attended, as did top city and school district officials. Much of the business of the breakfast is the opportunity to roam from table to table, greeting friends and acquaintances, and meeting plenty of fellow Berkeleyans for the first time.

Pastor Leslie White, who returned to Berkeley to give the keynote address at the King breakfast. Photo: Mark Coplan

Pastor Leslie White, who returned to Berkeley to give the keynote address at the King breakfast. Photo: Mark Coplan

Next Generation Awards were given to middle and high school students for projects based on King’s life and work. Vicki Alexander, a longtime public health official, and founder of the Black Infant Health Program, was presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award.

The center of the event was a rousing keynote address by Leslie White, pastor of Bethel Memorial African Methodist Episcopal Church in San Diego, who was a founder of the breakfast two years ago when he was based in Berkeley. Before his speech, White encouraged breakfast participants to “give a hug and a sloppy kiss” to the person sitting next to them. Even the less touchy-feely people in attendance complied.

But White had a serious message.

“Standing together demands a willingness to embrace tomorrow and let go of yesterday,” declared White.

White also drew both “amens” and laughter when he noted, “We are in the King sales weekend. Stores he picketed against are now holding sales in his name.”

White’s peroration — a building cadence reciting the lyrics to Sly & the Family Stone’s “Stand” — brought the hundreds of people in the room to their feet, roaring in approval. Here is the last verse and the concluding lines:

Stand
They will try to make you crawl
And they know what you’re saying makes sense and all
Stand
Don’t you know that you are free
Well at least in your mind if you want to be
Everybody
Stand, stand, stand

Berkeleyside is a media sponsor of the MLK Breakfast.

Pastor White asked everyone to "give a hug and a sloppy kiss" to the person next to them. Councilman Laurie Capitelli complied with his neighbor Mayor Tom Bates. Photo: Mark Coplan

Pastor White asked everyone to “give a hug and a sloppy kiss” to the person next to them. Councilman Laurie Capitelli complied with his neighbor Mayor Tom Bates. Photo: Mark Coplan

Members of the Berkeley High Jazz Ensemble provided musical accompaniment to the breakfast. Photo: Mark Coplan

Members of the Berkeley High Jazz Ensemble provided musical accompaniment to the breakfast. Photo: Mark Coplan

BUSD Superintendent Donald Evans congratulates middle school students for their Next Generation Awards. Photo: Mark Coplan

BUSD Superintendent Donald Evans congratulates middle school students for their Next Generation Awards. Photo: Mark Coplan

Related:
Berkeley MLK Breakfast will draw community together (01.07.13)
All Berkeley comes together, celebrates hope on MLK Day (01.22.13)
King breakfast brings Berkeley community together (01.14.13)

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  • supersickandtired

    why does every article have to include a photo OPP for Master Bates and or Loni Handcock?

  • guest

    Because it’s the Mayor’s job to be present.

  • http://www.berkeleyside.com/ lknobel

    No matter how supersickandtired you might be, even the most cynical would have to admit that’s a great photo by Mark Coplan.

  • supersickandtired

    it is a great photo i just wish every event didn’t have to include a staged photo opp for the mayor they are starting to look like advertisements for his re-election

  • guest

    Tom is not running again. He’ll be almost 80 years old when his current term ends.

    He’s the city’s mayor and a much-loved public figure with a four-decade career serving this constituency. Chances are he’s going to end up in a photo here and there.

  • supersickandtired

    thank you baby jesus…

  • notTHATguest

    Yours isn’t the real question. The real questions are:

    1. Why isn’t Bates kissing Laurie back?
    2, Why aren’t all of those other people in the photograph kissing somebody?

  • supersickandtired

    but he doesn’t have to be in every photo

  • notTHATguest

    He’s not. There are six photos. He is in one. That seems OK.

  • serkes

    The reticular activating system is hard at work here.

    Ira