Even without the usual dishes of salmon cakes and fried apples, this year’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. Prayer Breakfast in D.C. — held virtually Saturday amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic — provided plenty of food for thought as participants listened to messages about the slain civil rights leader, whose legacy is as relevant now as ever.

Ward 8 activist Norm Nixon Sr. and Norm Nixon Jr. moderated the 15th annual event that brought together faith leaders, community activists and praise dancers from the Alfred Street Baptist Church in Virginia, who performed remotely long before downtown D.C. was turned into a fortified security zone on the eve of the inaugural.

Rev. William Young began the program with an invocation: “We give you gratitude and thanks for all that you have done for us, oh God. … Dr. King encourages us not to grow weary.”

Nicole Johnson welcomed participants by quoting from the third chapter of Ecclesiastes 3, saying, “For everything, there is a season.”

Several speakers talked about the difficulties that many people experienced in recent times, whether it was the coronavirus pandemic, President Trump’s challenge of the 2020 election or the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. But despite the hardships, D.C. Council member Trayon White (D-Ward 8) said, “It is an honor to be here to celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King.”

Lamont Mitchell, executive director of the Anacostia Coordinating Council, said as a child growing up, he remembers seeing King, who was part of a planning meeting at the New Baptist Church among civil rights leaders like Rev. Walter Fauntroy.

Rev. Thomas Bowen, director of the Mayor’s Office of Religious Affairs, said while he has enjoyed the hearty meals and listened to civil rights history at the event in the past, events in 2020 have changed so much.

“In the past, we looked back, but now we are called to bear the cross and to be engaged in the battle that is in Washington, D.C.,” said Bowen, who came behind Kim Ford of Martha’s Table, who repeated the theme of the prayer breakfast, “Now is the time to come together.”

Rev. Christine Wiley, co-pastor of the Covenant Baptist Church in Southwest, used 2nd Corinthians 6:1-2 to preach from her sermon, titled “Now is the Acceptable Time.”

“What do you do, we do, when we understand?” Wiley asked rhetorically. “We believe! We speak the truth in power. … We work with God.”

Wiley pointed out that the Apostle Paul speaks in 2nd Corinthians about the children of Israel and how they were freed from captivity in the Old Testament.

Modern scholars use passages like Isaiah 49:8 as an example of Restoration Theology and God’s plan for the oppressed today: “In the time of my favor, I will answer you, and in the day of salvation, I will help you; I will.”

Washington Informer Publisher Denice Rolark Barnes and others commented on how fulfilling the program was as the nation celebrates the legacy of King, who would have been 94 this year.

The event ended with the singing of “We Shall Overcome.”

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Hamil R. Harris

Hamil Harris is an award-winning journalist who worked at the Washington Post from 1992 to 2016. During his tenure he wrote hundreds of stories about the people, government and faith communities in the...

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