Over 350 Berkeleyans gathered for the third annual community breakfast honoring the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. Photo: Lance Knobel

The third annual community breakfast honoring Martin Luther King Jr. brought together more than 350 Berkeleyans for rousing addresses, joyous music, calls to action, awards to young students, and plenty of hugs.

The theme of the breakfast was “beyond the dream… standing together,” and many of the speakers emphasized the importance of the community working together on many challenges, from the academic achievement gap, to unequal health outcomes, to violence in many neighborhoods. 

The Berkeley Community Youth Choir provided one of the highlights of the King breakfast. Photo: Lance Knobel

The breakfast, organized by a volunteer group that includes many of the leaders of black congregations in Berkeley, the police chief, members of the business community, leaders from the school district, and officials from the university, is a relatively rare occasion when many different Berkeley communities come together for a few hours.

Most of the city’s elected officials attended, as did top city and school district officials. Much of the business of the breakfast is the opportunity to roam from table to table, greeting friends and acquaintances, and meeting plenty of fellow Berkeleyans for the first time.

Pastor Leslie White, who returned to Berkeley to give the keynote address at the King breakfast. Photo: Mark Coplan

Next Generation Awards were given to middle and high school students for projects based on King’s life and work. Vicki Alexander, a longtime public health official, and founder of the Black Infant Health Program, was presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award.

The center of the event was a rousing keynote address by Leslie White, pastor of Bethel Memorial African Methodist Episcopal Church in San Diego, who was a founder of the breakfast two years ago when he was based in Berkeley. Before his speech, White encouraged breakfast participants to “give a hug and a sloppy kiss” to the person sitting next to them. Even the less touchy-feely people in attendance complied.

But White had a serious message.

“Standing together demands a willingness to embrace tomorrow and let go of yesterday,” declared White.

White also drew both “amens” and laughter when he noted, “We are in the King sales weekend. Stores he picketed against are now holding sales in his name.”

White’s peroration — a building cadence reciting the lyrics to Sly & the Family Stone’s “Stand” — brought the hundreds of people in the room to their feet, roaring in approval. Here is the last verse and the concluding lines:

They will try to make you crawl
And they know what you’re saying makes sense and all
Don’t you know that you are free
Well at least in your mind if you want to be
Stand, stand, stand

Berkeleyside is a media sponsor of the MLK Breakfast.

Pastor White asked everyone to “give a hug and a sloppy kiss” to the person next to them. Councilman Laurie Capitelli complied with his neighbor Mayor Tom Bates. Photo: Mark Coplan
Pastor White asked everyone to “give a hug and a sloppy kiss” to the person next to them. Councilman Laurie Capitelli complied with his neighbor Mayor Tom Bates. Photo: Mark Coplan
Members of the Berkeley High Jazz Ensemble provided musical accompaniment to the breakfast. Photo: Mark Coplan
BUSD Superintendent Donald Evans congratulates middle school students for their Next Generation Awards. Photo: Mark Coplan

Berkeley MLK Breakfast will draw community together (01.07.13)
All Berkeley comes together, celebrates hope on MLK Day (01.22.13)
King breakfast brings Berkeley community together (01.14.13)

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Lance Knobel (Berkeleyside co-founder) has been a journalist for nearly 40 years. Much of his career was in business journalism. He was editor-in-chief of both Management Today, the leading business magazine...