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 A praise dance conducted by the Love Life Dancers, including Aneia Diggs, of Eastpointe, center, was among the performances at the 2020 Martin Luther King Jr. Day Breakfast at MacRay Harbor in Harrison Township Jan. 20.

A praise dance conducted by the Love Life Dancers, including Aneia Diggs, of Eastpointe, center, was among the performances at the 2020 Martin Luther King Jr. Day Breakfast at MacRay Harbor in Harrison Township Jan. 20.

Photo by Deb Jacques


Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebrated at annual breakfast

Governor and Eastpointe mayor honor King’s legacy

By: Brendan Losinski | C&G Newspapers | Published January 27, 2020

  Members of the North Broadway Church of Christ, pictured during the opening prayer, are among the many Macomb County congregations that came together to honor Martin Luther King at the Macomb County Ministerial Alliance’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day Breakfast Jan. 20 at MacRay Harbor in Harrison Township.

Members of the North Broadway Church of Christ, pictured during the opening prayer, are among the many Macomb County congregations that came together to honor Martin Luther King at the Macomb County Ministerial Alliance’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day Breakfast Jan. 20 at MacRay Harbor in Harrison Township.

Photo by Deb Jacques

 Eastpointe Mayor Monique Owens calls for passionate action as she speaks at thebreakfast.

Eastpointe Mayor Monique Owens calls for passionate action as she speaks at thebreakfast.

Photo by Deb Jacques

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HARRISON TOWNSHIP — This year’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day Breakfast, organized by the Macomb County Ministerial Alliance, was headlined by two special guest speakers: Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Eastpointe Mayor Monique Owens, the first black female mayor in Macomb County history.

The event took place Jan. 20 at the MacRay Harbor Banquet Hall in Harrison Township. Besides the speakers, the event featured a violin performance by Isabella Vesprini, a choral performance by the North Broadway Church of Christ choir and a dance performance by the Love Life Dancers.

“The message I want people to walk away with this morning is that today is a day of service,” MCMA President Kevin Lancaster explained. “Our theme this year is coming together, and this (event) is the community coming together.”

Whitmer said that the legacy of King is taking action, and that much of what he stood for still needs to be fought for.

“We’re not just here to honor an American hero, but to address the injustices he fought against,” Whitmer said. “When 43% of families live beneath the United Way’s (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) standards and struggle to survive, these are injustices we have to address. Michigan will not be a successful state until all people are successful.”

Whitmer went on to say that her administration is taking action to address a variety of issues that disproportionately affect minority populations. This includes criminal justice reform — citing that African Americans are six times more likely to be incarcerated than white Americans — providing aid to majority African American communities, improving representation in the hiring of public school teachers, changing overtime rules that could affect low-income households, and adjusting income aid regulations so those struggling don’t have to be destitute in order to receive help.

“The aspirations and vision of Dr. King should inform us and inspire us to address the issues that still plague us,” she remarked.

Lancaster said he particularly appreciated her calls to better provide equitable justice for all people.

“I think the governor recognizes the plight of racism and is taking action against it,” he said. “She shared how that if an African American student has an African American teacher before the third grade, they are 13% more likely to go to college, and if they have two, that number jumps up to 32%. When looking at where our country is today, we need to keep figures like that in mind.”

Owens stressed how many people have allowed King’s dream of equality for all to fade into the background, and that many need to renew their drive to see it fulfilled.

“Martin Luther King’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech was spoken in Washington, D.C., in 1963,” said Owens. “That was 57 years ago. Today I ask you: What happened to his dream? … His dream was something he envisioned and wanted to make possible, but when he woke it wasn’t so. The point of a dream is to make it reality, so why are we still dreaming?”

Owens said that even in 2020, she has had to confront racism as she took up the position of mayor and said she is far from alone in having to endure such things.

“I did not expect the anger, the ridicule and the hate,” she said. “I thought I was part of that dream, but I learned not everyone has the same dream. It messes up their reality. … Martin Luther King knew everyone did not share his dream, but he still worked to make it so. If you want to see black judges, black clerks and black mayors, it’s time to wake up.”

Lancaster, an Eastpointe resident, said he felt great pride in his community when Owens was elected, and he said the passion she called for is what’s needed at this time in history.

“I thought it was very passionate and it’s time to move on from where we are now,” he said. “I live in Eastpointe, and I’m thankful she was able to speak and share her passion to people beyond Eastpointe.”

On the day set aside to remember King, the message of the breakfast was clear: Honoring the man was not enough — people have to take action to keep his legacy alive.

“It’s important to hold people to the highest standards exemplified by Martin Luther King,” Whitmer said. “When we show up for one another, the majority prevails, and the majority is made up of disparate people.”

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