The following story was written and reported by Adam Rubin and Sharon Valverde Vargas.
There was a strong sense of community at the Marshall White Community Center on Jan. 20th at the MLK Freedom Breakfast event
The event has been held at the Marshall White Community Center for roughly 30 years, and WSU has been involved for 20 years. The theme of this year’s event was “The Fierce Urgency Of Now.”
Betty Sawyer, president of the Ogden branch of the NAACP and community engagement coordinator in Access and Diversity at WSU, expressed her passion for creating a welcoming community.
Sawyer said that for her organization, the holiday “is a day on and not a day off.”
“Until we get to a place where my children don’t have to experience the same things I did, I have to keep doing the work,” Sawyer said. “Sometimes people feel like they can do it tomorrow or later, but it’s a fierce urgency of now. If we don’t do it, we’re taking steps backwards.”
Black Scholars United and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People ran a service program and a sit-in with the community to create artwork and discuss King’s vision. Children who attended this event had the opportunity to make posters and hold them up as they marched to the amphitheater.
During the morning breakfast and march, attendees were able to listen in on a variety of speakers. Rev. France Davis, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church was one of them that shared his experience marching with and knowing Dr. King.
The NAACP has been consistently working at reaching out to public schools and higher education institutions to help honor the day, and the tradition and legacy that King left.
Sawyer explained how the civil rights movement affected her life as a young girl into adulthood. She was born in the eastern part of Maryland, right above the Mason-Dixon line.
Sawyer said that despite Brown v. Board of Education in 1954, her high school did not integrate until the year 1966. She was one of the first 10 students chosen to integrate at her high school. Sawyer vividly remembers when someone came running down the street past her, yelling, “They shot Dr. King.”
Sawyer said that the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. rocked her community — and the nation — drastically. In her introduction to the civil rights movement, Sawyer had to grapple with the questions that we still struggle with today.
“You’re supposed to love your neighbor, turn the other cheek, no hate, and you’re trying….but you’re being treated a certain way,” Sawyer said. “So, with the assassination of Dr. King, it caused me to question, ‘How are you supposed to love? How are you supposed to love somebody that does those things to another person, just for showing love and speaking up?’ Those are the events that molded me into the activist that I am today.”
Ron Davidson, part owner of Jessie Jean’s Café, learned how to get involved with the Marshall White Center during Thanksgiving 2019 when they held a dinner for the homeless that served 800 people.
“It’s community trying to bring the community together,” Davidson said. “We moved to Ogden to create a bigger stage, to bring more awareness to the community around, instead of just what’s around you, your internet, your phone, your job. Family is who you make it, we’re all family.”
Davidson, his wife, Anna, and Jessie Jean’s Café look for every opportunity to serve and help the community. Before the march to the Ogden Amphitheater began, a free breakfast was served to attendees by Jessie Jean’s Café and Grounds for Coffee and was dished up with the help of WSU students.
Angenette Pineda, a student at WSU, was one of the volunteers. Pineda describes herself as a busy student and admits that it can be hard to find time to get involved with off-campus events and volunteer opportunities. Yet, she’s been involved with the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Breakfast and March for the past three years.
Nailah Mansa, African American Student Senator at WSU, wants the community to be educated yearly on these individuals that have been a vital part of our country.
“I want more youth to come. It’s so important to teach them lessons on their level so they can walk home with it. What we invest in our children determines our future,” Mansa said.