The 22nd annual MSU Denver MLK Peace Breakfast was all about inspiration.
The event centered around a public conversation with civil rights activist Dr. Vincent Harding, choir music, sermons and poetry. Peace Award recipients from MSU Denver and the surrounding community were also acknowledged for their dedication in keeping Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream alive.
The Friday morning festivities, held at the Tivoli Turnhalle, started with a breakfast buffet. The host, Emmy award-winning journalist Tamara Banks, introduced Harding, who worked alongside King, with comments on how he inspires her to do good.
“I’ve given up on keynote speeches about 25 years ago,” Harding said. “Whenever I can, I make an opportunity not to let people sit and listen and applaud and go on their way. But I ask my beloved companions in the American experience to think, to share, to listen to each other.”
Harding then passed the mic on to different audience members and asked them to share their name, where they grew up, state their grandmother’s name, and explain what they think Martin Luther King Jr. would ask of them today.
People from Ethiopia, Mexico, Colombia, and Denver shared their thoughts on the increase of poverty since 2008, the want for a more color-blind society, voter rights, the need for more critical-thinking and kinship and not letting fear control people.
“There were times when [King] was afraid of where he was going, afraid for his life, and afraid for the welfare of his family,” said audience member Amelia Guadalupe Dia Hawke, who came to America in 1963 from South America. “[King] would ask us today, ‘if you were not afraid, what would you do?’ Now, I always keep in mind what would I do if I were not afraid.”
Harding added that the students of MSU Denver should not bother with how much money they will make, or hang on the words of the “mass communication industries” or even the president. But rather address the problems of the poor and weak, the problems with society, and try to find a way to fix it.
“Once we walk through that fear, we enter into new possibilities we never dreamed of,” Harding explained. “And then the next steps are magnificent.”After the Colorado Movement choir moved the audience to their feet with their songs, Dominique Christina Ashaheed read her poems, which were interrupted by cheers from the audience.
“Great men who dared to jut out were struck down,” she said. “The immorality of it all and the needlessness and simpleness of it all. Can’t believe how ungodly we were, they want me to do something about it.”
Student activist and humanitarian Mahdyeh Nowkhandan, non-violent civil rights activist and teacher, Ramon Del Castillo, and retired executive director for the Colorado I have a Dream Foundation, Mary Hanewall, received Peace Awards at the celebration.
The ceremony concluded with the words of Imam Abdur-Rahim Ali, who read from the first chapter of the Quran and talked of God’s way for his children, and Rabbi Stephen Booth Nadav, who emphasized a need for coming together as brothers and sisters.
Harding left the audience with a quote from his old friend Gus Neward, the first African-American mayor of Beverline, Calif.
“The great American experiment in multiracial democracy is still in the laboratory.”