More than 600 attend MLK breakfast

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 21, 2004

More than 600 people braved the cold, dreary rain Monday morning to attend the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Breakfast at the Dunbar Recreation Center.

The Butler County Civic League hosted the event and the crowd surprised even them.

&uot;We ended up having to go out and get more food items because we had so many attend,&uot; Chairwoman Linda Hamilton said.

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&uot;This was the largest in terms of attendance that we have seen since we began the program.

We were expecting only 400 people and over 600 showed up.&uot;

Hamilton gave a lot of praise to those involved in the breakfast and had special words for the young people taking part.

&uot;I think the incredible thing is the number of young people who were there and wanted to participate in this event,&uot; she said. &uot;They wanted to serve and something for the adults in a respectful manner.

I’m so very proud of them all.&uot;

Anyone thinking Greenville had racial barriers would find none in Dunbar on Monday morning.

People of all racial backgrounds came together and chatted and ate and listened.

A very large group of young people attended as Hamilton said, and this was a school holiday.

&uot;It was just so exciting to see so many youth here,&uot; she said. &uot;Today we complain about the condition of our youth but if you give them the opportunity, they are quite capable and willing to do the right thing.

It is a just a matter of reaching out and making sure that we have the necessary resources in place to help.&uot;

She expressed her happiness over the racial makeup of the group.

&uot;I’m proud that our community just really supported it this year,&uot; she said.

&uot;Our black and white community really came out and joined together.

That is important because no matter what race we are, we are all the children of God and this is what God expects of us.&uot;

Giving the keynote address of the morning was State School Board member Ella Bell, who represents Butler County in her district.

Bell recounted how as a young lady, she wanted to march and protest with King, but her mother worried about her doing so.

She said she finally told her mother why it was important to take part.

&uot;I told her that I wanted to march because I was marching for my freedom,&uot; Bell said.

&uot;No one else should have to walk for my freedom.&uot;

She said after telling her mother that, the elder woman relented, but asked that her daughter march in the center of the group in case of violence.

Bell said she tried to respect her mother.

She also recounted about the night she heard of King’s assassination and the feelings felt by so many afterwards.

&uot;There was such an overwhelming sense of sadness that night,&uot; she said.

&uot;There were those who began speaking about a conspiracy and that those in control had killed the dream.

However, then the other voices began to rise about King’s dream being alive.

That he had indeed left us a legacy.&uot;

Bell challenged all present to &uot;Dare to Dream,&uot; and to make the country a better place.

&uot;It is that dream and legacy that we must live out today,&uot; she said.&uot;

Feeding the many who attended was not an easy task.

Hamilton said plans for the breakfast begin as early as October and right after Christmas everything speeds up.

&uot;We got started about 4 a.m. when our amazing chefs started cooking,&uot; she said.

&uot;Our young people arrived at 6:30 a.m. to put out the silverware and plates on the tables.

It was just a day of good attitudes and positive spirits.

We should all be proud of ourselves as a county and city.&uot;

She said she wanted to really thank King for his role in the world.

&uot;I certainly want to thank the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. for his sacrifice and his commitment to justice and righteousness,&uot; she said. &uot;Then I want to thank our young people for opening their hearts to do something constructive and also thanks to all the people of this community.

Members of the Civic League’s Breakfast Committee included Hattie Brown, Willie Bradley, Terry Banks, Yvonne Gulley, Abby Jackson and Willie Mae Robinson.

The &uot;Amazing Chefs&uot; for the event were Elizah Jordan, Terry Banks, Happy Murphy, Samuel Gregory and Eleanor Crenshaw.

Other speakers included Mayor Dexter McClendon, Superintendent Mike Reed and a special poem by Minnie Bell Bedgood. The Crenshaw Community Choir and also Tomasina and Katrina Means provided special music.

Also, County Commissioner Daniel Robinson led those present in a rendition of &uot;We shall overcome.&uot;

Some 50-area youths served as hosts and hostess and the Greenville High School ROTC Color Guard and Drill Team also took part.

Hamilton said she looks forward to an even bigger event next year and hopes the community continues to support it.

Those wishing to learn more about the Butler County Civic League or who would like to attend a meeting should visit them on the fourth Saturday of each month at 10 a.m. at the YMCA.