Marian Wright Edelman, founder and president of the Children’s Defense Fund, told nearly 2,000 people attending the 23rd annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday Breakfast January 21, “We need to wake up.”
Specifically, she urged the sold-out audience at the Minneapolis Convention Center and the live TV audience watching on TPT (Twin Cities Public Television) to wake up to the consequences of failing to improve the educational disparities that pose dangerous implications for the future of our country: “Will the United States be a beacon or a blip in history?
“We need to recognize that we have to invest now,” Edelman said, “and invest with urgency and with persistence so that we can give every child a chance to be able to function, work and contribute in this very complex, changing world and economy.”
A graduate of Spelman College and Yale Law School, Edelman began her career in the mid-1960s when, as the first African American woman admitted to the Mississippi Bar, she directed the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund office in Jackson, Miss. In 1968, she moved to Washington, D.C. as counsel for the Poor People’s Campaign that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. began organizing before his death.
In 1973 she founded the Children’s Defense Fund. Under her leadership, it has become one of the United States’ strongest advocates for children and families.
The theme of the 2013 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday Breakfast was “Education: The Fierce Urgency of Now.” King referred to civil rights as “the fierce urgency of now” in his famous “I Have a Dream” speech in 1963.
“Minnesota’s fierce urgency of now must be to create the best education system for all of our kids, including kids of color and low-income students, to excel to their full potential,” said Martin Abrams, chair of the 2013 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Breakfast Committee and a marketing director at General Mills.
The event also featured remarks from Dr. Michael Lomax, president and chief executive officer of UNCF, who spoke about the critical importance of education. “It is indeed our era’s great emancipator; or, as Frederick Douglass called it, the pathway from slavery to freedom.”
Singing and music filled the Minneapolis Convention Center ballroom with performances from singer Ann Nesby and Greater Praise and Fortress choirs.
The breakfast included the presentation of the Local Legend community service awards. This year’s Local Legend winners are Warren Bowles, veteran actor and director; Eric Mahmoud, chief executive officer of Harvest Prep Academy; and John Turnipseed, director of the Center for Fathering.
As in the past, the St. Paul Area Council of Churches hosted six simultaneous free breakfasts, which extend the reach of the breakfast and provided an opportunity for people in St. Paul, Mahtomedi and Duluth, Minn. and River Falls, WI to watch the event together.
The Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday Breakfast began when UNCF and the General Mills Foundation joined together to host a community celebration to honor the legacy of King. What started with 800 guests in 1991 has grown to be one of the largest King holiday breakfasts in the nation. Past speakers have included Gen. Colin Powell, USA (Ret)., Naomi Tutu, Cory Booker, the late Yolanda King, and U.S. Rep. John Lewis.
From a General Mills press release