Local MLK breakfast attended by hundreds

Barbara Hootman

Around 350 people met last Saturday, Feb. 6, to celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at the prayer breakfast in his honor at Camp Dorothy Walls. King and the movement he began that fueled the drive for human rights reform worldwide were recognized and celebrated.

The keynote speaker, Steven Crump, a noted documentary producer and award winning television broadcaster from Charlotte, delivered an inspirational speech referencing historically significant civil rights leaders and events. Crump had met many of the leaders he mentioned.

His speech was in keeping with Dr. Martin Luther King’s statement “Everybody cannot be famous but everybody can be great because greatness comes from service.”

Crump encouraged listeners to work for peace and understanding in their own communities.

“I asked Crump to focus some of his address on showing us how some of the civil rights conflicts of the 60s and 70s influence our society today,” George Michie, corresponding secretary and board member of the MLK organization said. “He lived up to expectations of hearing a motivational speech that brought home the message of building relationships being the most important thing we can do locally.”

Michie felt this year’s MLK breakfast was one of the most inspiring he can remember in a long time.

“Steve Crump bought the message home to us personally,” Michie said. “He pointed out that attending a MLK Breakfast once a year wasn’t enough, but to build relationships where common ground can occur in our communities is what we can do that will make a lasting difference.”

The MLK Organization is as multi-fold as it was 26 years ago when the organization was founded with a mission to:

Present King’s life and teachings

Celebrate and recognize King’s birthday with an annual public event

Establish a fund for Swannanoa Valley schools to be used by qualifying students

Facilitate community events and leadership opportunities for Swannanoa Valley citizens

Provide a forum where the public can get information and teachings on social and diversity issues

Provide a forum for individuals and community mediation and facilitation

Promote the development of character, integrity, leadership and scholarship of area young people.

The organization awarded a total of $12,000 for the 2015-16 school year for a limited number of scholarships and financial aid to high school seniors in the Swannanoa Valley planning to enroll on a full-time basis in a two-or-four year college program.

Meg Turner, principal at Owen High School, along with her 10 year old daughter Mia McMurry, attended the breakfast for the first time.

“This was my first time to attend the breakfast and it was a wonderful experience to be in that room (Camp Dorothy Walls Conference Center) filled with people from the Swannanoa Valley sharing the same experience,” she said. “I felt part of the cause that was being celebrated. It was important for my daughter to realize there are people who live in our community that understand what Dr. King offered. I hope the breakfast enlightened her a bit.”

James Higgins, a counselor at First at Blue Ridge Inc., was attending his fourth MLK Breakfast and brought guests with him.

“I thought this was the best MLK Breakfast that I have attended,” he said. “I think the speaker (Steve Crump) was so dynamic and inspiring, that it made a memorable celebration. I enjoyed hearing what others are doing in the community to make relations better, and how all of us can apply Dr. King’s philosophy to our own communities and have closer relations.”

Monroe Gilmour, community activist, who works to develop better relationships between people felt the breakfast was one of the best he has attended.

“A lot of new people who were there (MLK Breakfast) were ‘blown away’ that our little town has such a big MLK Breakfast,” he said via e-mail. “One said to me, ‘Wow, I wish I had known about this before.’ The speaker was great. He had an incredible breadth of experiences with some of the greats of the Civil Rights Movement. Each story was fascinating and he brought them back to a connection to Black Mountain and the Swannanoa Valley

“The spirit of the breakfast was upbeat and energetic. The Mills Chapel Youth Choir was particularly inspiring and loved by everyone. The introduction music by Andy Gwynn, especially his ode to Nelson Mandela, was moving.”

Adrienne Hollifield, English teacher at Owen High School, attended the MLK Breakfast for the first time. There was a reserved Owen High table this year for Meg Turner, principal at Owen High School, and her daughter, Mia, Dr. Heidi Von Dohlen, principal at Owen Middle School, and four members of the Owen High diversity team.

“I was excited to see so many of our local leaders there,” Hollifield said via e-mail. “The keynote speaker was really interesting and inspiring because he worked on so many documentaries about the civil rights movement. He spoke about meeting with many of the people who worked and walked with King, discovering that although King was the face of the movement and the leader there were a lot of people behind him, all helping produce the needed change. He encouraged people in the audience to do the same thing.

“I was at the MLK Conference in Montreat in the fall (2015) and I felt like Steve Crump’s speech was not only wonderful on its own, but it was also an excellent follow-up, calling once again for people to not be complacent, to continue MLK’s legacy.