Jacksonville’s Martin Luther King Jr. breakfast rift continues for third year

For the third year in a row – Jacksonville will have two large breakfasts – honoring Martin Luther King Junior. The city is holding one – and local civil rights groups are hosting the other. Both are virtual this year because of the pandemic. News4Jax Reporter Brittany Muller is live.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – For the third year in a row, Jacksonville will have two large breakfasts to honor Martin Luther King Junior Friday morning.

The city held one and local civil rights groups hosted the other. Both were virtual this year because of the pandemic.

The Split

The split happened in 2019 after 32 years of sharing one event. Local civil rights activist groups said city officials were shutting them out of planning the breakfast event.

The mayor’s office denied the accusations, saying they invited the groups to several meetings.

Some choose to see the split as a positive because it means there are twice as many opportunities to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. However, it should be noted the events start at the same time.

Both events shared a rendition of Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing, written by Jacksonville native James Weldon Johnson. It’s often referred to as the Black national anthem.

The City of Jacksonville MLK Breakfast

Duval County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Diana Greene was one of the panelists for the city’s 34th Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Breakfast.

“The level of compassion and passion he had for ensuring that we were all created and treated fairly, that we were all created equal and that we were treated fairly, has always been a part of my leadership style,” Greene said. “It has always been my desire to ensure that I create an environment where individuals feel they are being treated fairly and that every individual has a voice, and that voice carries a level of influence and an ability to make change.”

In addition to Greene, the city’s breakfast featured a panel of community leaders, including Mayor Lenny Curry, UF Health CEO Dr. Leon Haley, and United Way of Northeast Florida President and CEO Michelle Braun.

“When the city consolidated in the late 60s, there were promises made that just frankly weren’t kept: neighborhoods and infrastructure. Many of those broken promises were in the African-American community,” Curry said. “So we’re working on -- in the remaining budgets I have -- doing what we can to try to start to right some of those wrongs and those broken promises.”

News4Jax Anchor Joy Purdy co-hosted the city event that discussed racial injustice, education, health care and economic mobility.

The event was streamed live on Friday morning from the Prime F. Osborn III Convention Center.

Jacksonville NAACP sponsored MLK Breakfast

Local civil rights groups including the Jacksonville Branch NAACP, African American Ministers Leadership Council, and Southern Christian Leadership Conference, held their breakfast at 8 a.m. Friday.

The theme of this year’s breakfast was: “Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community?” which is a 1967 book by African American minister, Nobel Peace Prize laureate, and social justice campaigner Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

“I urge you to continue to work and advocate for the rights of every individual, for the right of every vote to be counted and for those votes to dictate public policy in our communities,” said Dr. Leon Russell, chairman of the Jacksonville Branch NAACP. “We must fight for truth and for justice.”

Due to COVID-19, the event virtually honored civil rights advocates by highlighting their achievements and commitment to the Jacksonville Community.

Featured speakers included Russell, Chairman of the Board of the NAACP, and Bishop A.J. Richardson, Senior Bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church.

Friday’s message was one of hope as well as acknowledging there is still much to be done.

“Chaos or community is the decision, and we should hope to choose community,” said Bishop Adam Jefferson Richardson. “He calls us to steal from the chaos of our current crisis to wade in the water en route to the beloved community.”

News4Jax Anchor Melanie Lawson emceed the event last year and continued those duties this year.

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