A Day Fit for King
Chronicle breakfast kicks-off MLK Day events on Monday
The Chronicle will be kicking the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday off in style this year.
Close to 1,000 attendees are expected at the “Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. 2014 Annual Prayer Breakfast Honoring the Late Nelson Mandela” at the MC Benton Convention Center this year.
In keeping with tradition, the 7:30 a.m. breakfast will honor the rocky road African Americans have traveled, and provide inspiration for the future, said Chronicle Publisher Ernie Pitt.
“It’s a horrible history, but it’s what happened,” Pitt said of tracing black history back to its roots in slavery. “Our ancestors suffered and it’s because of their suffering, it’s because of Martin Luther King’s suffering, death and murder that we are able to do some of the things that we’re able to do today. We owe them our respect. We owe them our honor … and that’s what the MLK Prayer Breakfast is all about.”
The event will feature some nationally known guests, as well as some of Winston-Salem’s own. Acclaimed Attorney Willie “Giant Killer” Gary will serve as keynote speaker. The Eastman, Ga. native’s rags-to-riches story is the stuff of legends; his meteoric rise from migrant farming communities in the rural South to becoming one of Forbes magazine’s “Top 50 Attorneys in the US” is well documented. Gary, who helmed the first African American-owned law office in his hometown when he was licensed to practice in 1974, says King paved the way for the success he has enjoyed.
“Dr. King paid the ultimate price for all of us to be where we are today. It ain’t about just black people, it’s both black and white people coming together and because of that, we live in a better nation, there’s no doubt about that,” he declared. “Every opportunity I get to sing his praises, it’s an honor for me to do that.”
Gary, who has won more than $150 million in settlements over the course of his career, has strong ties to the Tarheel State. He is an alumnus of Shaw University and North Carolina Central University School of Law. In fact, he was a student at Shaw University when King was assassinated in 1968. Gary said he takes King’s message of service to the less fortunate to heart. In his address, he will challenge area residents to also take up the mantle of service. Gary said it is a mantra that those who know him have heard time and again.
“As Dr. King said, we all have a tendency to want to be the best that we can be, but at the end of the day, your greatness will be determined by how much you served, how much you helped somebody that is less fortunate than you,” he commented. “…I challenge my colleagues everyday to make a difference and help somebody else. Don’t just hang out your ‘Do not Disturb’ sign. Get involved in your community, get involved with your people, and above all, make the money, don’t let the money make you.”
The event will also feature comments from longtime city resident Dr. Maya Angelou, an acclaimed poet and author, and a special guest performance by gospel songstress Tramaine Hawkins, a Grammy Award winning artist known for hits like “Fall Down (Spirit of Love)” and “The Rock.” The San Francisco native has graced stages across the nation, lending her voice to pivotal moments in American history, including the funeral of Rosa Parks in 2005.
Nearly 70 singers and musicians will also perform as part of Winston-Salem’s Big 4 Choir. The choir, which is made up of alumni from each of the city’s four historically black high schools, is a tangible celebration of local black history, Pitt said.
“It’s from those places that the black community sprang,” he stated. “So we’re honoring them and they’re honoring us, by providing us with some inspirational music.”
Choir Director Eddie Bines Jr., an alumnus of Atkins High School, said the sought-after group is looking forward to rubbing shoulders with Hawkins and entertaining attendees at the prayer breakfast this year.
“It was a wonderful opportunity to share such a wonderful occasion,” he said of the breakfast. “It makes it very special for Tramaine Hawkins to be there. Getting to meet her in person and getting a chance to perform on the same stage, that is very exciting for us.”
Slated speakers for the breakfast are Mayor Pro Tempore Vivian Burke, District Court Judge Denise Hartsfield, Rev. Donald Jenkins of St. Paul UMC, Mayor Allen Joines, Wake Forest Health’s Cheryl Locke, Rev. Dr. Sir Walter Mack and State Sen. Earline Parmon. A limited number of tickets to the prayer breakfast are still available.
“It’s going to be a good meal and fellowship and entertainment and some seriousness,” Pitt said. “I think people need to come because they will leave with a sense of pride, understanding and a commitment to our culture.”
Twin City observances of the King holiday began on Wednesday, Jan. 15 with the NC Black Repertory Company’s annual MLK Birthday Celebration at the Arts Council Theatre.
On Saturday, Jan. 18, Wake Forest and Winston-Salem State universities will join forces with Hands On of Northwest NC for a Service Read-in at the Benson University Center on WFU’s campus. Wake Forest will host its 9th Annual Gospel Fest on Sunday, Jan. 19 at 3 p.m. at Brendle Recital Hall. Grace Presbyterian Church will host its MLK Birthday Celebration Concert on Sunday at 4 p.m.
On Monday, Jan. 20, Mount Zion Baptist Church will host an MLK Youth Rally and Breakfast at 8:30 a.m., followed by the MLK March at 10:45 a.m. Salem College will host an MLK Day Walk at 11 a.m. starting at the Main Hall. At 11:30 a.m., the Ministers Conference of Winston-Salem and Vicinity will hold a MLK Day Coalition Program at WSSU’s Anderson Center. Odd Fellows Cemetery will host a cleanup effort from 9 a.m.- 12 noon. The MLK Noon Hour Commemoration is slated for 12 p.m. at the Benton Convention Center, and at 7 p.m., WFU and WSSU will hold their Joint MLK Day Celebration in WFU’s Wait Chapel and the Ministers Conference will host their MLK Day Program at St. Stephen Baptist Church. City officials will round out local observances on Tuesday, Jan. 21 with the unveiling of a plaque commemorating the Board of Aldermen’s 1985 decision to honor King’s birthday as a city holiday. The program will be held at 6 p.m. outside the entrance to the Council Chamber in City Hall.
For more information about the MLK Prayer Breakfast or to reserve a ticket, visit www.wschronicle.com or call 336-722-8624 x100. For more information about local MLK events, visit the Human Relations Web page at www.cityofws.org or call CityLink, 311.