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A day of reflection and remembrance

St. Mary’s City, MD- “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” This famous quote by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. summed up the mood of the 13th annual MLK Prayer Breakfast at St. Mary’s College of Maryland.

On Jan. 16, hundreds gathered for the day of reflection and remembrance. St. Mary’s College in partnership with St. Mary’s County Human Relations Commission, St. Mary’s County Public Schools, College of Southern Maryland and the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., Nu Zeta Omega Chapter hosted the prayer breakfast at the J. Frank Raley Great Room at the Campus Center. Leonard Brown, who is on the MLK Prayer Breakfast Planning Committee, said it's always a great turnout. "We usually have 200-300 people. The breakfast started at 6:30 a.m. and there was a good crowd." 

This year’s event featured activists, politicians, students and performers. The keynote speaker was David Kendall. The attorney and activist was a Freedom Rider in the 1960’s and part of a campaign to register black voters in the Deep South. Today, he still fights for civil rights.

The Master of Ceremony was Tuajuanda Jordan, President of St. Mary’s College. She welcomed visitors and spoke about the changes approaching our nation with the incoming Presidential administration.

Pastor John Briscoe, from Saint Inigoes, offered both the invocation and benediction. He retired after serving for 37 years in the United States Army. He and his wife founded Restoration Free Gospel Church of Christ back in 2005.

Congressman Steny Hoyer [D-MD 5th District], who represents St. Mary’s, Charles and Calvert counties, also addressed the audience. He currently serves as the House Democratic Whip for the 115th United States Congress and is the second-ranking member of the House Democratic Leadership.

“Today is a day of service, a day of remembrance, a day of commitment,” Hoyer said. He reflected on an old Time magazine in which Martin Luther King Jr. was featured on the cover. The magazine designated MLK a Founding Father. “Today we celebrate the life of a man, who was a Founding Father, even though he lived long after the Founding Fathers.”

Moyer went on to talk about past racial injustices that are being brought the light on the big screen through movies like “Hidden Figures” and “The Help.”

“I hope those who have seen these movies are offended by those before us.” Moyer also promised to recommit himself to the ideals and the principals of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “The Dream.” “Martin Luther King called on us to protect, preserve and promote that ‘Dream.’  That’s our duty. As our President Barack Obama said, he will leave the presidency at noon on Friday and obtain a title he already had—citizen. As citizens today and every day, we’re called to make America all that we want it to be.”

Keynote Speaker, David Kendall, shared with the audience his experience during the Freedom Summer in 1964. He worked with the Council of Federated Organizations to register black voters in Mississippi. He was roommates with murdered civil rights worker Andrew Goodman. Kendall talked about the times he was arrested while fighting for civil liberties.

Kendall went on to complete his undergraduate degree at Wabash College. As a Rhodes Scholar, he earned his master’s degree from Oxford University and earned his law degree from Yale Law School.

Kendall joined Williams & Connolly law firm in Washington, DC in 1978 and became a partner in 1981. He has represented many high profile death penalty cases, as well as some high profile clients, including the Clintons.

“Mississippi was a shock to me because segregation was everywhere. There were separate doors, separate drinking fountains, even separate Bibles to take an oath in the courtroom. There were ‘Whites-only’ signs everywhere. And even though the United States Supreme Court ordered schools to be unsegregated in 1954, this was largely ignored in Mississippi,” Kendall shared.

Kendall talked about the dangers of cross-racial dating and public displays of affection and how cross-racial marriage was still a crime. “The summer was one of fear, uncertainly, anxiety and dread. Looking back, not a lot was accomplished but did get a few black voters registered.”

Kendall said reflecting back over the past 50 years, a lot has changed for the better. “There’s more desegregation, more federal laws against discrimination, more black voter registration, more black public officials and a twice-elect black President of the United States.” Even with those changes, Kendall said the country still faces problems of race, income inequality, over-incarceration, police violence against non-white citizens and backlash against Affirmative Action.

Kendall encouraged the audience to get involved politically to help push for more change in our country. “What to do? I try to imagine what Martin Luther King Jr. would say today if he were still alive. I think he’d say we needed this time to renew solidarity and if we disagree, we do so verbally and with respect.”

During the prayer breakfast, guests were also treated to the talents of The First Missionary Baptist Church Youth Choir. The group ranges in age from three to 18 years old.

The Spring Ridge Middle School Rhythm Club also dazzled the crowd with their rhythmic talents. The group gathers after school to create heart-pounding routines using just empty plastic buckets and large plastic storage containers.

Contact Joy Shrum at j.shrum@thebaynet.com

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