About 130 attend MLK Jr. prayer breakfast

Megan Wilkinson

Kent United Church of Christ kicked off Martin Luther King Jr. Day early by hosting its annual NAACP MLK Jr. prayer breakfast on Saturday.

The breakfast was a “celebration in the voice of MLK Jr. and the legacy that he left of nonviolence,” said Geraldine Hayes-Nelson, assistant vice president for pipeline initiates and diversity programming at Kent State.

Reverend David Pattee said the event helped bring people from the community together to remember and keep alive the legacy of MLK Jr.’s work. The church has been hosting the breakfast for more than 20 years.

“The King weekend is a big deal for us,” Pattee said. “The ministry, the theological outlook and the social justice commitment of Martin Luther King Jr. is very much in line with the commitments of this church.”

About 130 people attended. Adult tickets were $8, and Hayes-Nelson said the profits and any donations will be used to fund the Portage County NAACP Scholarship.

The breakfast featured artwork made by local elementary and high school students from the Kent area. All artwork depicted MLK Jr. or his dream from the students’ perspectives.

Members of the Portage County community also gave speeches, sang or recited poetry about the holiday.

Mwatabu Okantah, assistant professor of Pan-African studies, recited his poem “Legacy.”

“My poem speaks to Dr. King’s development,” Okantah said, “and what I hope is his impact on mankind.”

Senior Spanish translation major Monique Menefee also performed. Menefee and her daughter each sang hymns to the crowd.

“It was exhilarating,” Menefee said. “It was like a testament to everything Martin Luther King Jr. stood for. There was a sense of unity and appreciation in the room as I sang.”

The breakfast closed with a prayer followed by the song “We Shall Overcome.”

“It was a really nice time this morning to be able to acknowledge Dr. King and the legacy he left for us,” Menefee said. “We have a future now because of all the civil rights. He fought for us to get that as a people. That’s not just black or white people — it’s all people.”

Contact Megan Wilkinson at [email protected].