Hundreds gather for King breakfast

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 19, 2006

The black community still faces a number of problems, but progress has been made in civil rights, Dr. Joe Reed told those attending the Butler County Civic League's annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Breakfast.

Like the country, Greenville and Butler County officials joined together to honor the memory of King, who would have been 77 on Monday. Deemed by many the most important figure in the civil rights movement of the 50s and 60s, King was assassinated on April 4, 1968.

Reed, Chairman of the Alabama Democratic Conference, said King would be pleased with the progress made towards equality. He said the struggle, from Brown vs. Board of Education to the Voting Rights Act of 1965, was well worth the cost.

&#8220There's people who say nothing has changed,” said Reed. &#8220I can tell you oh, yes it has.”

Reed cited Greenville Mayor Dexter McLendon's opening remarks as proof of those changes. McLendon said longtime city officials Jeddo Bell and James Lewis, both who are black, are the &#8220heart” of the city council.

&#8220To have a mayor say that means we've come far,” said Reed.

Still, there are issues, said Reed.

Reed said black males make up a majority of the prison population, while black females continue to have children outside of wedlock.

&#8220And we're still getting discriminated against,” he said. &#8220Especially women, both white and black. We can't tolerate that.”

He also urged blacks to never miss an opportunity to vote.

&#8220Put people in office that are sympathetic to your needs. Get people out to vote on Election Day.”

Monday's breakfast was the 18th such honoring King's memory for the Butler County Civic League. Near the entrance, longtime member Willie Mae Robinson exhibited a scrapbook and several old programs and press clippings about King.

&#8220The first year we got together, we released balloons to honor Dr. King's memory,” she said.

Civic League Chairman George Cook called the breakfast the &#8220best yet” as a number of speakers expressed positive sentiments about King.

&#8220Martin Luther King was an agent of change,” said Rep. Charles Newton (D-Greenville). &#8220He did not accept the status quo.”

Darlene Sellers initiated loud cheers from the audience with her poem &#8220Just Because I'm Black,” which attacked people who judge blacks by skin color alone. Black people are not just dope dealers, thieves and murderers, Sellers said.