Inspire, challenge and connect were the three words used to bring students and faculty members together in the Atwood Memorial Center Ballroom to celebrate the life of Martin Luther King Jr.
The room was decorated and set for presentations by community leaders who spoke about the importance of open communication in communities. Speakers included the Chief of the St. Cloud Police Department Blair Anderson and CentraCare CEO Dr. Kenneth D. Holmen. Both spoke about the need to take part in a community and to start a conversation.
“It’s always impressive to see the willingness of citizens to be of service to one another,” Anderson said.
The connection within the St. Cloud community was the theme of the morning as families and faculty lined up for a breakfast of eggs, banana bread and coffee before sitting down to discuss the topics of racial diversity and general acceptance. The crowd of over 580 participants enjoyed listening to the St. John’s Boys Choir as they ate their breakfast. Singing the Black National Anthem, the choir set the ambiance as a screen was lowered onto the stage.
Live feed of the MLK Breakfast convention in Minneapolis was shown, along with a variety of guest speakers. Presented by the General Mills Foundation and The United Negro College Fund (UNCF), the MLK Breakfast celebrated its 26th year in Minneapolis. The keynote speaker this year was Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick who spoke about the necessity of open communication about topics that make people feel uneasy.
“To reach higher we must ask big questions and do big things,” Patrick said. “We shout our anger, but only whisper our kindness. We need to shout justice, shout compassion and shout love.”
Patrick took to the stage to talk about the inspiration that Martin Luther King Jr. has left for the world, and how it is our duty as citizens to challenge the violations of human rights that we see in today’s society. His speech included the idea of uneasiness, and how Martin Luther King Jr.’s beliefs of community awareness is still prevalent today.
In honor of community awareness and connection, the breakfast included a time of reflection and “community conversation.” This time was spent answering group questions about the keynote speech and what really resonated with the audience.
In honor of community acceptance, group members were encouraged to meet the people sitting across from them and discuss the questions honestly, and without judgement.
SCSU Senior Cori Cephas enjoyed the tribute to the inspirational leader as she participated in the morning’s group activities. Having gone to the breakfast last year, she was familiar with the openness of the community and speakers.
“It’s nice to see so many people here,” she said. “You know that the people who are here want to be here, and that’s a good feeling to be around.”
This is the MLK Breakfast’s third year, having been a hit the past two years. Debra Leigh, Chair of the MLK Breakfast has watched the community grow over the past three years. Leigh believes that the most important part about the breakfast is getting the community connection message across to the audience. The biggest question she ponders: How do we be in a community?
“It’s not about comfort,” she said. “It’s about getting close to your neighbors and starting a conversation.”
Leigh recognizes that racial diversity is a difficult topic to discuss without judgement, but she believes that talking about hot social issues is the only way to come together and grow. She includes the live video feed from Minneapolis to promote community connection in the hopes of inspiring students to take part in their own communities. Having had three successful years planning the breakfast, Leigh says that people come because they want to be there, and that they want to be part of the open community that they’ve created.
The MLK Breakfast connected St. Cloud citizens to a man who brought positive change to many communities. SCSU honors Martin Luther King Jr. by promoting diversity and tolerance with events like the breakfast. The speakers all encouraged students to take action against injustice, and to shout kindness instead of anger. On this holiday SCSU celebrates Martin Luther King Jr. and how he inspired, challenged and connected people from across the nation.