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Leadership breakfast at King's planning site

POSTED: January 22, 2014 10:00 p.m.
Photo by Samantha B. Koss/

Leadership and Grand Marshal Breakfast attendees fill their plates Saturday morning at Dorchester Academy in Midway.

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The Liberty County Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Observance Association hosted its annual Leadership and Grand Marshal Breakfast Saturday at Dorchester Academy as part of the area’s multifaceted celebration of the civil-rights leader’s life. Parade Grand Marshal Rear Adm. Annie Andrews and local families packed the hall to recall and praise King’s legacy through songs and speeches.
“Dr. King had a dream many years ago, and that dream is still being kept alive throughout the world,” Midway Mayor Dr. Clemontine Washington said. “We are continuously unleashing the power of the dream and making it a reality.”
Elected and appointed officials from around the region spoke about King and his quest to bring justice and equality to African Americans.
Through leadership, peaceful protests and the power of speech, King changed the nation and
many Americans’ way of life.
“King brought attention to the world of how unfairly blacks were treated,” guest speaker Kimberly Robinson said. “He had the courage to keep working peacefully when others did not … America will always remember the work of this great man.”
Several members of the Liberty County branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People also attended the celebratory meal.
“We are the dream-keepers, to make sure MLK’s dream stays alive,” Liberty County NAACP President Hannah Williams-Donegan said. “We need to uphold his work to keep equality, justice and unity.”
Donegan highlighted the NAACP’s influences in helping King achieve his mission.
“Without the NAACP, a lot of things would not have been accomplished that Dr. King had wanted,” she said. “Whenever he needed marchers or protesters, he always called on the NAACP, so we are here for that purpose — to keep his dream alive.”
Liberty County Board of Education Chairwoman Lily Baker agreed with Donegan and emphasized the importance of keeping King’s memory alive for younger generations.
“We need to keep the legacy of Dr. King alive so our children know where they came from and what the struggle was all about,” Baker said. “They need to know that someone paid a price for the life they are living today.”
Locally, the famed leader’s memory is kept alive through occasional events like Saturday’s breakfast at Dorchester Academy, which is where King stayed, taught and planned civil-rights activities.
The American Missionary Association, now known as the United Church of Christ, founded the academy in 1869 as a school for freed slaves. The school closed in the 1940s and the Liberty County Citizens Council, founded in 1946, later started using the location to help register and educate African-American voters. During the early 1960s, King and many other civil-rights figures convened at the academy to plan marches and events.  
“Dr. King and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference needed a place where they would not feel intimidated,” said breakfast attendee Sallie Richardson, who met King in the 1960s during his time in Midway. “I think they felt safe and comfortable here.”
Richardson said that King and his friend and supporter, Andrew Young, greatly influenced the movement in Liberty County and the Southern states. Young was part of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference during the 1960s, and he and King used the center to train teachers and students in voter education and non-violent social change.
King and Young are known for planning the Birmingham march — one of the first victories in the civil-rights movement — at Dorchester, Richardson said, but the two spent a lot of time in the area spreading awareness in churches and schools.
“Throughout the summer, we would have camps here,” Richardson said. “We were able to accommodate them when they hosted youth events through the church so they could teach people of civil rights.”
Richardson remembered King playing basketball at the old Liberty County High School.
“He liked playing for exercise,” she said. “He was a good athlete.”

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