As the nation geared up to celebrate the federal holiday honoring the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., local organizations prayed, hosting events centered around King’s unapologetic emphasis of faith to fight the struggle.
UPO Hosts 39th Annual Breakfast, First Since Pandemic
The United Planning Organization (UPO) celebrated its 60th anniversary at its 39th annual MLK Jr. Memorial Breakfast, Friday, Jan. 13, marking the first in-person event held in three years since the COVID-19 pandemic and with more than 600 supporters in attendance.
Jeffrey Page, the youngest board chair to serve in UPO’s history, reflected on the breakfast theme, ‘Economic Justice,’ an often-overlooked part of Dr. King’s legacy. It is because of Johnson’s War on Poverty and Dr. King’s economic justice advocacy that community action agencies, like UPO, exist.
Founded in 1962 as part of the U.S. government’s War on Poverty, thousands of area residents have benefitted from the broad range of services UPO offers, including $1.4 million awarded in scholarships, education services, job placement, as well as expanded resources through the pandemic.
Andrea Thomas, UPO president and CEO, announced 76 units of brand-new affordable housing in D.C. for those earning 50% or below the area median income, with 110 new additional units coming this year in southwest D.C. in partnership with TM Associates.
Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-District of Columbia) introduced keynote speaker Rep. Emmanuel Cleaver (D- Missouri), whom she praised for helping to champion D.C. statehood.
Cleaver said he often thinks about, “What if Africans had not come to America,” and how different the U.S. would be. He stressed the contributions Blacks have made, including the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. “who helped change America.”
“Use the memory of Dr. King, who gave everything, including his life, to give something. Your job is to serve.”
Keiri Sanchez, a student at Bell Multicultural High School, who served as the event’s MC, was one of five students to receive a $10,000 Joseph Beaver Scholarship to help realize their dreams of becoming a pilot, engineer, biologist, therapist, and zoologist, respectively.
MLK Holiday DC 5th Annual Prayer Breakfast Focuses on Unity
Before preaching at the fifth annual MLK Holiday DC Prayer Breakfast on Jan. 14, the Rev. Dr. E. Gail Anderson Holness, pastor of Adams Inspirational A.M.E., told The Informer why it’s important to hold such gatherings.
“[We pray], because we know where we’ve been, but we don’t know where we’re going. We’ve come this far by faith, and people need to know that there is camaraderie, there is collectiveness, there is power in numbers, and we are not by ourselves,” Holness said. “This breakfast shows unity, togetherness, that we can fight whatever issues we have in our community together, because together we stand, divided we fall.”
With the District facing high homicide rates and fervent fights for: equity and statehood, the event’s speakers ensured audiences left with plans of action. Acknowledging the breakfast’s theme “Recapture the Dream: Lift Every Voice til Victory is Won,” speakers emphasized the importance of collective action to conquer justice goals.
“It is so unfortunate that today, 60 years later, we continue to see inequities and inequalities prevail,” D.C. Youth Mayor Addison Rose said. “Our people have certainly been agents of change when it comes to lifting every voice until we see the necessary results to believe victory has, indeed, been achieved.”
Council member Trayon White (D-Ward 8) said collaboration is key in demanding change.
“I want to empower you today, in the spirit of Dr. King, to unite. Dr. King always said unity or non-existence,” White said.
The Rev. Thomas Bowen, director of the Mayor’s Office of Religious Affairs, preached that D.C. statehood is a “river to cross.”
Also the interim director of the Mayor’s Office on African American Affairs, Bowen referenced the famous rallying tune, “We Shall Overcome.”
“Deep in my heart, I do believe Washington, D.C., will be a state someday.”