Honoring Accomplishments & Ideals of Martin Luther King, Jr.

By Dasha Morgan

Plans to honor and celebrate the accomplishments and ideals of Martin Luther King, Jr. abound in Asheville, Hendersonville and on the UNCA campus. King, the spokesperson and leader in the Civil Rights Movement from 1955 until his assassination in 1968 is being remembered and honored throughout the United States for his use of nonviolence and civil disobedience to further the civil rights of African Americans in this country.

Internationally renowned author and educator Dr. Joy DeGruy will deliver the keynote address at its 39th annual MLK Prayer Breakfast at the Crowne Plaza Resort, January 18th from 8:30 - 10 a.m.
Internationally renowned author and educator Dr. Joy DeGruy will deliver the keynote address at its 39th annual MLK Prayer Breakfast at the Crowne Plaza Resort, January 18th from 8:30 – 10 a.m.

In Charlotte and Raleigh there will be a parade, musical programs and art events. Besides these in Atlanta, Hands On Atlanta mobilizes more than 3,000 volunteers in service to local communities, schools and nonprofits as part of the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service. The Atlanta History Center and Atlanta History Center Midtown, as well as many other galleries and museums, will open their doors and have no admission fee in honor of Martin Luther King Day.

Here in Asheville there will be the 39th annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Prayer Breakfast at the Crowne Plaza Resort on Resort Drive in West Asheville. On Saturday, January 18th, the breakfast will be held from 8:30 to 10 a.m. The Prayer Breakfast is usually attended by more than 1,100 local citizens and community leaders, and highlights the Community’s commitment to diversity with the citizens of Asheville and Buncombe County.

Keynote speaker for the Unity Breakfast on January 20th at Blue Ridge Community College Dr. Vergel L. Lattimore III is President and Professor of Pastoral Psychology and Counseling at Hood Theological Seminary in Salisbury, NC.
Keynote speaker for the Unity Breakfast on January 20th at Blue Ridge Community College Dr. Vergel L. Lattimore III is President and Professor of Pastoral Psychology and Counseling at Hood Theological Seminary in Salisbury, NC.

This Prayer Breakfast organized by The Martin Luther King, Jr. Association of Asheville and Buncombe County supports the ongoing efforts to achieve Dr. King’s ideals in this community. Internationally renowned author and educator Dr. Joy DeGruy will deliver the keynote address at its 39th annual Prayer Breakfast. Dr. DeGruy is known as a tell-it-like-it-is ambassador for healing and a voice for those who have struggled in search of the past and continue to struggle through the present. Her groundbreaking book, Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome—America’s Legacy of Enduring Injury and Healing, addresses the origins and residual impacts of trauma of the slave trade on Americans of African descent, even a century and a half after slavery ended.

Asheville’s first Martin Luther King, Jr. Prayer Breakfast was held in January 1982 at the Montford Community Center, under the auspices of the Asheville Parks and Recreation Department. It was organized by Parks and Recreation Activities Director Oralene Simmons and attracted far more people than expected.

In speaking with Oralene Simmons, she said “It was something that I felt. I really wanted to share with the community. I wanted to invite the community in for prayer and to pray for peace, all of us together, to make this a better place for all of us. We can reflect on the past, but we must look to the future to see how and what we can give to those in need. We must set goals for the future.” Within a few years the event had grown to fill the Asheville Civic Center, and in 2000—the year the Association was chartered as an independent nonprofit—the breakfast moved to the Grand Ballroom of the Grove Park Inn. Since 2015 it has been held in the spacious ballroom of the Crowne Plaza Resort.

For this year’s breakfast, the doors open at 7:30 a.m. and the program starts at 8:30 a.m. Regular adult tickets are $25; youth tickets (12 and under) are $15. Tickets are available on the website at Patron tickets are $35.

On Monday, the official Federal King Holiday, the MLK Association hosts a Peace March and Rally beginning at 11:30 a.m.—this year beginning at Hopkins Chapel AME Church and continuing to City-County Plaza—and a 6:00 p.m. Candlelight Service honoring recipients of the Martin Luther King Community Service Award. In addition, the Association awards college scholarships to several first-year students each fall. Keynote Speaker for the Candlelight Service and awards ceremony will be Cassius Cash, who is superintendent of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. He previously served as Superintendent at Boston National Historical Park and Boston African American National Historic Site, where he helped secure $4 million to reopen the African Meeting House, the oldest black church still in its original location in the country.

According to Dr. Simmons, chair of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Association, bringing in Dr. DeGruy “is a way to help her audience understand how the past has influenced the present.” In her work Dr. DeGruy examines the conditions that led to the Atlantic slave trade, the seemingly insurmountable obstacles that African Americans faced as a result, and the adaptive behaviors they developed that allowed them to survive and often even thrive. Her insights and presentation will open a discussion as to how the African American can use the strengths they have gained to heal.

An Assistant Professor at Portland State University, Dr. DeGruy’s academic and policy affiliations have included the University of Chicago, Oxford, Harvard, Columbia, and Fisk universities, and Morehouse Colleges. She has also presented to such federal and state agencies as the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Juvenile Justice Judges Association, and numerous police, probation and parole agencies. A highly sought-after expert, she has appeared on CNN, ABC, NPR, Pacifica Network stations nationwide and in The New York Times, Essence Magazine, The Journal of Black Psychology, and other publications. Dr. DeGruy holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Communications; masters degrees in Social Work and Psychology; and a PhD in Social Work Research.

UNC Asheville MLK Commemoration Held

Award winning journalist, author and civil rights pioneer, Charlayne Hunter-Gault will give a keynote address at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 21st, in the Highsmith Student Union Blue Ridge Room on the UNCA campus. The topic will be From Jim Crow America to Apartheid South Africa and Beyond – An Activist Journalist’s Journey. This is free and open to everyone. A veteran journalist who gained fame as longtime national and international correspondent for the PBS NewsHour, Charlayne Hunter-Gault has also reported for CNN, NPR, The New York Times, and The New Yorker. She is the author of four books and a pioneer of the U.S. Civil Rights Movement,who successfully challenged segregation in court and was the first black woman to attend the University of Georgia. Support for Charlayne Hunter-Gault’s visit to UNC Asheville comes from Biltmore Farms Hotels, Blue Ridge Public Radio, and Our State.

On Wednesday, January 22, a documentary film on the history of lynching in America will be shown at the Highsmith Student Union Grotto at 7:00 p.m.on the UNCA campus. This 2019 film, Always in Season, was produced and directed by Jacqueline Olive and won the Special Jury Prize for Moral Urgency at the Sundance Film Festival. Reporting on four American communities where descendants of victims and perpetrators are working together to heal, the film explores the lingering impact of more than a century of lynching African Americans and connects this form of historic racial terrorism to racial violence today.

Master classes, workshops on social justice, music, dance, and spoken word from blues-based poet, novelist, and essayist

Arthur Flowers will all be featured as part of the University commemoration of Dr. King throughout January. For more information.

Prayer Breakfast at Blue Ridge Community College

On Monday, January 20th, another Prayer Breakfast will be held in Hendersonville. The Martin Luther King, Jr. Unity Breakfast Committee is planning a 2020 Celebration at Blue Ridge Community College’s Technology Education & Development Center in the Blue Ridge Conference Hall. Ronnie Pepper will serve as Master of Ceremonies and is completing his second year as Chair of the MLK, Jr. Unity Breakfast Committee. As in year’s past, the 2020 celebration will also feature inspirational music and dance performances. Doors to the ticketed event open at 8 a.m. with breakfast provided by Bojangles’ Famous Chicken ‘n Biscuits beginning at 8:30 a.m. The program will follow at 9:15 a.m. 2020 marks the 20th year of having the MLK, Jr. Unity Breakfast and program in Henderson County and the celebration’s theme is education.

The theme was influenced from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s 1947 article, “Intelligence plus Character: The Goal of True Education” from Morehouse College’s student paper The Maroon Tiger. This year’s program will highlight and honor alumni and faculty of Hendersonville’s Ninth Avenue and Sixth Avenue Schools. These schools served as a beacon for the education of Black Americans and as regional community centers from 1916 to 1965.

Keynote speaker for this breakfast is Dr. Vergel L. Lattimore III, President and Professor of Pastoral Psychology and Counseling at Hood Theological Seminary in Salisbury, NC. Dr. Lattimore is a former Director of the Master of Arts in Counseling Ministries at Methodist Theological School in Ohio (1990–2012), an ordained Elder in the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, and is a published author. While in the Air National Guard (ANG) he served as Assistant to the Chief of Chaplains, U.S. Air Force, Bolling Air Force Base in Washington, D.C. (2003–2005). He was the first African American Chaplain to attain the rank of Brigadier General in the U.S. Air Force and the Air National Guard. A few of Dr. Lattimore’s honors include being a recipient of the Air Force Legion of Merit Medal (2005) and a recipient of the State of Ohio National Guard – Distinguished Service Medal (2005).

The January 20 event is open to the public, but tickets are required. Prices are $15 for adults and $5 for children ages 5-12. Tickets are on sale at Community Foundation of Henderson County’s office (located at 401 N. Main Street, Suite 300) beginning Nov. 18. They will also be available at the door the day of the event. Attendees may call (828) 697-6224 for more information.

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