Daily Egyptian

Carbondale NAACP honors Martin Luther King Jr. with 35th annual commemorative breakfast

Neviah+Lynon%2C+7%2C+of+Carbondale%2C+cracks+a+smile+after+walking+through+the+food+line+at+the+35th+annual+King+Breakfast+on+Monday%2C+Jan.+16%2C+2017%2C+at+the+Student+Center.+Lynon%E2%80%99s+mother%2C+Nelia+Johnson%2C+said+they+try+to+attend+the+event+every+year.+The+breakfast%2C+which+honored+the+life+and+legacy+of+the+late+civil+rights+advocate+Martin+Luther+King+Jr.%2C+was+sponsored+by+the+Carbondale+branch+of+the+NAACP.+%28Jacob+Wiegand+%7C+%40jawiegandphoto%29
Neviah Lynon, 7, of Carbondale, cracks a smile after walking through the food line at the 35th annual King Breakfast on Monday, Jan. 16, 2017, at the Student Center. Lynon’s mother, Nelia Johnson, said they try to attend the event every year. The breakfast, which honored the life and legacy of the late civil rights advocate Martin Luther King Jr., was sponsored by the Carbondale branch of the NAACP. (Jacob Wiegand | @jawiegandphoto)

Neviah Lynon, 7, of Carbondale, cracks a smile after walking through the food line at the 35th annual King Breakfast on Monday, Jan. 16, 2017, at the Student Center. Lynon’s mother, Nelia Johnson, said they try to attend the event every year. The breakfast, which honored the life and legacy of the late civil rights advocate Martin Luther King Jr., was sponsored by the Carbondale branch of the NAACP. (Jacob Wiegand | @jawiegandphoto)

Neviah Lynon, 7, of Carbondale, cracks a smile after walking through the food line at the 35th annual King Breakfast on Monday, Jan. 16, 2017, at the Student Center. Lynon’s mother, Nelia Johnson, said they try to attend the event every year. The breakfast, which honored the life and legacy of the late civil rights advocate Martin Luther King Jr., was sponsored by the Carbondale branch of the NAACP. (Jacob Wiegand | @jawiegandphoto)

By Diamond Jones

More than 100 Carbondale residents gathered Monday morning to celebrate the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. in the Student Center ballroom.

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People chapter of Carbondale held its 35th annual MLK commemorative breakfast, themed “Strength to Love,” in honor of King’s birthday.

“This is a time where we should all be proud, remain hopeful and on this day, remember a great man,” said Sarah Elizabeth Broom, SIUC alumna and Phi Eta Sigma chapter member.

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Melissa McCutchen-Williams, Shakeia Smith and Tamara McCutchen, all SIU alumna from Carbondale, perform the song “Higher Ground” during the 35th annual King Breakfast on Monday, Jan. 16, 2017, at the Student Center. “I think that this day means looking at where we’ve come from and still knowing that there’s a lot of progress to be made, and trying to be a citizen that’s going to help progress continue and help people of color and all disenfranchised people advance — People in general.” McCutchen-Williams said. (Jacob Wiegand | @jawiegandphoto)

In 1983, Black Coalition chairman Richard C. Hayes introduced the idea of the coalition’s first project as a breakfast in memory of King and his advocacy for equality.

“One of the blessings that I hope we keep remembering from Rev. King, is that it takes hard work and sacrifice,” said Linda Flowers, the newly appointed president of Carbondale’s NAACP chapter.

Flowers said there has been significant progress in terms of the event’s attendance. After outgrowing their original facility — Thomas Elementary School — in 1988, members Martha Farris and Margaret Nesbitt conceived the idea of hosting the breakfast on SIU’s campus. Changes were implemented by previous Director of Housing Ed Jones and former President John Guyon, who moved the celebration to Grinnell Hall.

Matthew Wilson, a senior from Carbondale studying radio, television and digital media, sings “His Eye is on the Sparrow,” during the 35th annual King Breakfast on Monday, Jan. 16, 2017, at the Student Center. “It’s a very religious and powerful song,” Wilson said. “With the trials and tribulations that people have gone through to be where we are today, we always have to remember to have strong faith. And so that was a song that we would sing to get us through.” The breakfast, which honored the life and legacy of the late civil rights advocate Martin Luther King Jr., was sponsored by the Carbondale branch of the NAACP. (Jacob Wiegand | @jawiegandphoto)

Other than providing a venue for the breakfast, Flowers said the university also provides food for the event. Flowers said the Carbondale community plays a part as well by contributing donations and encouraging youth involvement. 

“You don’t have to be great to serve,” Flowers said. “Dr. King didn’t do it alone. He had help from all races and walks of life.”

Geraldine Robinson, of Carbondale, and Donald Chamberlain, a graduate student in social work from Carbondale, share a moment while serving food at the 35th annual King Breakfast on Monday, Jan. 16, 2017, at the Student Center. “This day means that we can come out and show love and show that we can all work together and be one big happy family,” Robinson said. “And I think it’s the greatest way of showing how Martin Luther King felt about his dream and the things that he wanted to see in life. And when we come together as the one group, we make a beautiful alphabet soup.” The breakfast, which honored the life and legacy of the late civil rights advocate Martin Luther King Jr., was sponsored by the Carbondale branch of the NAACP. (Jacob Wiegand | @jawiegandphoto)

The ceremony involved prayer and speeches from Carbondale community and church members and leaders. Interim Chancellor Brad Colwell served as the keynote speaker, stressing in his speech the importance of community service and student development through the inspiration of King’s work. Carbondale Mayor Mike Henry and Murphysboro Mayor Will Stephens also made public speeches.

Rev. Alfred McGowan, the emcee for the event, led the audience in a spoken word selection of “Let My People Go,” just before community dancers took the stage to perform a praise dance to Hip-Hop mogul and activist Common and R&B artist John Legend’s Academy Award winning song “Glory,” after which the dancers received a standing ovation.

Sha’Niya Garmany, 5, of Carbondale, waves a flag during a selection of the song “Glory” with other performers during the 35th annual King Breakfast on Monday, Jan. 16, 2017, at the Student Center. The song, typically performed by musical artists John Legend and Common, was made famous in the 2014 film “Selma,” which centers around Martin Luther King Jr. and his 1965 march from Selma to Montgomery, Ala. (Jacob Wiegand | @jawiegandphoto)

“The invitation of Dr. King continues to invite us to a climb to the mountain top,” said Iman Haqq, who spoke during the ceremony.

Thomas Elementary school students displayed their different talents through poetry and visual features in an MLK essay contest on what love meant to them.

Interim Chancellor Brad Colwell speaks to the crowd at the 35th annual King Breakfast on Monday, Jan. 16, 2017, at the Student Center. The breakfast, which honored the life and legacy of the late civil rights advocate Martin Luther King Jr., was sponsored by the Carbondale branch of the NAACP. (Jacob Wiegand | @jawiegandphoto)

The winners were awarded honorary certificates and a gift card to see the film “Hidden Figures,” a new film about the untold stories of three African American woman who played a huge role in one of the greatest space launch operations in history.

“It’s good to get together and remember greatness,” Flowers said. “My pastor always says, ‘Where the rubber meets the road is where the work begins.’”

Staff writer Diamond Jones can be reached at [email protected], 618-536-3325 or on Twitter @_dimewrites.

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