Hundreds gather for annual MLK event

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 19, 2000

Citizens and public officials from across Butler County joined Monday morning to celebrate the birthday and holiday honoring civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The Butler County Civic League has held the Martin Luther King Breakfast for several years now and Civic League Chairman George Cook said that it has continued to grow with more people attending each year.

"We hosted better than 500 people at the breakfast this year. When it first started about 15 years ago we did not have near the crowd that we have now. It seems that each year there are more and more people coming to celebrate this occasion with us," Cook said.

The theme for this year's event was "Remember, Celebrate, Act, A Day On, not a Day Off." The theme was intended to influence people to respect the memory of King by taking the time to remember the struggles of the civil rights movement.

"We want people to remember Dr. King by their actions. Rather than taking the day off to do nothing, we want people to concentrate on remembering the fallen hero and to consider his messages on this day as a way to respect him," he said.

The breakfast was held at 8 a.m. at the Dunbar Community Center in Greenville. After an invocation and breakfast, County Commissioner Leroy Johnson and City Councilmember Dexter McLendon greeted those in attendance. The message was brought by Rev. D.B. Bennett of King Hill Baptist Church in Selma and ex-pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church here in Butler County.

Cook said that Monday's event was very successful and that Bennett can be credited for some of that success.

"We feel like everyone had a good time. Rev. Bennett was an outstanding speaker and energized the entire audience. We could not be more pleased with how things went and felt it was very successful," he said.

One of the reasons for the larger crowds over the past few years can be attributed to the support of local churches.

"We have asked many of churches in the area to buy ten tickets for $25 and to send members of their congregations to the breakfast. They have been very cooperative and supportive of the event over the past few years," Cook said.

The event is intended to be a public celebration for King, with members of all races and backgrounds encouraged to attend.

"This is meant to be an entire county celebration," he said. "We have public officials there every year, but it also is intended for the citizens from all parts of Butler County to join together in celebration."

The tickets for the breakfast cost $3 per person. Cook said that Event Chairperson Beulah Cook, Sharon Dunklin, Celestine Owens, Debra Edward-Scott and Linda Hamilton served as coordinators for this year's breakfast.

In all the food for the event cost about $600 and the money raised will go to pay that bill and others.

"This is not a fundraiser. We do not do this to make money; instead the money that is raised goes to pay the costs. Our only financial goal is to break even," he said.

Instead of money being a primary focus of the event, Cook said

the important thing is that the community remembers King, both the man and his dream.

"We try to bring people together in unity to commemorate our fallen leader. We want everyone to come together and show support for a man who did a lot of things, not for the betterment of himself, but for the betterment of society," he said.

Cook said he felt that King would be proud to see some of the changes that have taken place over the years. Some of which could be seen during the breakfast in his honor.

"I imagine that if he was in heaven and looking down upon us he would have been very pleased. I believe that he would have been smiling," Cook said.