Steve Perry, the keynote speaker at the annual Martin Luther King, Jr., Community Breakfast on Friday, quickly pointed out that King likely would not have been invited to that sort of event.
Truths about the civil rights leaders often get lost in the celebrations of his life, said Perry, an educator who hosts the “Breakthrough with Dr. Steve Perry” television show on Fox.
“In many cases, Dr. King would not have been invited to many of the ceremonies to celebrate his life because the things that he said were so incendiary, so different, that people thought that he was doing it for himself. They said he was just doing it for the publicity and the fame.”
King received hate from many groups, including African Americans, for the ideas he shared.
King’s was a message of love for all, Perry told the breakfast attendees. King preached about loving his friends and enemies, and he fought for a greater vision rather than getting caught up in trivial fights that consumed us then and consume us today.
“We get focused on the wrong things, and as a result of being focused on the wrong things we miss the point of a Dr. King celebration,” Perry said. “A Dr. King celebration, at its core, is about a man who stood for a thing. Whatever that thing is that matters to you, actually stand for it.”
Coastal Georgia Area Community Action Authority hosted the breakfast, which took place at the the College Place United Methodist Church in Brunswick.
Community Action Authority is the largest comprehensive human service agency in Coastal Georgia.
“Today, we’re here to honor a man whose ideas and dreams have changed the community, the nation and the world,” said Charles Stewart, chairman of the Community Action Authority board.
Brunswick Mayor Cornell Harvey encouraged the breakfast participants to follow in King’s example by fighting for their own dreams for a better community.
“Will we stand up in times of adversity, or will we sit in times of comfort?” Harvey asked. “The question is, what will you do with your dream?”
King lived life with a target on his back, Perry said, because he dared to stand up and demand better from the world.
“It was because he stood for something so profound and so different called love,” Perry said.
King also knew, though, that he had to convince not only of his enemies but also his friends.
“Dr. King wrote a letter from a Birmingham jail not to white racists — to pastors … of the same denomination from which he preached,” Perry said. “Because it was they, those closest to him, who caused him the most discomfort.”
Perry encouraged the attendees not to look at people’s differences but instead at their commonalities and to work together to fight the real issues in this community.
“We’re spending too much time caught up in the small things,” he said. “There are big picture issues that require our attention. The fact that you know that here in Brunswick there are certain communities that have been poor since you’ve been here means that y’all have got something to think about.”
Tres Hamilton, CEO of Community Action Authority, said this was a call to action for Brunswick and Glynn County.
“We ought to be up and ready, almost running out the door to do the work that’s needed here in this community,” she said.
A new initiative called the “Community of Hope” aims to improve the lives of local families, she said. Community Action Authority is leading a collaborative effort to address generational poverty in this area by improving access to services that can aid struggling families.
Plans are in the works to open a community resource center on the historic Risley High School campus, located in the heart of Brunswick adjacent to some of the community’s most low-income citizens.
“Together, we will wrap our arms around our families and support those families and give them the services that they need,” Hamilton said.
King worked to spread a message of love, Perry said, so that all people can be free. Perry encouraged everyone to focus on the needs of this community, to bring people together for a unified purpose.
“Let today be the beginning of tomorrow,” he said.