Members of Washington, D.C.-area faith-based, government, professional and educational organizations gathered Jan. 18 for a prayer breakfast in honor of Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday to discuss ways to help the needy–feed and clothe the poor, assist men and women reentering society after incarceration and to move the struggle for civil rights forward into the next generation.

Restore Together,a faith-based corporation headquartered in Largo, hosted the breakfast at the Willard Intercontinental Hotel in Northwest “to bring about a greater awareness of poverty and oppression and diversity and community,” said the Rev. Louis J. Hutchinson III, co-founder of the organization.

During the breakfast, five people were honored for their service to the local community: Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.); the Rev. Ronald E. Braxton and the Rev. Marie Phillips Braxton, pastors of Metropolitan A.M.E. Church in D.C.; former Washington Post journalist Dorothy Gilliam; and former executive director of the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, Joshua Dubois.

The breakfast also recognized the Friends Community School of College Park and the Why Can’t We Wait initiative, a response by the faith community to mass incarceration in the District.

“Martin Luther King Jr. fought very hard for racial equality.” Cummings said in a video message. “ wanted to make a difference so that people would have an opportunity. He also fought for…economic variancy.”

Cummings called on participants to help their communities during these tough economic times.

“We need you to go out and support folks based on your hopes and dreams and not based on your fears and problems,” he said.

Willie Pearl Mackey, King’s secretary with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, said Restore Together is trying to reach out to all types of people, including those who have been jailed, to build on the accomplishments of the Civil Rights Movement.

“One of the things that stood out for me, most significantly, was how they are trying to include the current society into appreciating what they can do, and to know that they can do something,” she said.

The breakfast also included a panel discussion by faith leaders including Dubois; Dr. David McAllister-Wilson, president of Wesley Theological Seminary in Northwest Washington; the Rev. Dr. William B. McClain, a professor at Wesley; and the Rev. Brenda Girton-Mitchell, director of the U.S. Department of Education’s Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.

The panel discussed ways to carry forth King’s teachings of justice and equality in the digital age. Wilson said that social media has helped to attract a new generation, but has limitations. For example, he said, social media prompted a new generation to vote, which was the reason why President Barack Obama was elected to office in 2008. But social media has not enticed that same generation to sign up for health care.

The panel also discussed the importance of drawing young people into the effort to end poverty and oppression.

“I think it’s key to not just give young people the voice, but to give them leadership and ownership of these movements that we are talking about,” Dubois said, pointing out that King was only 26 years old when he became involved in the civil rights movement.

Speakers urged the audience to be motivated to act.

“We pray that when you leave today, you leave with a greater commitment to serve,” Marie Braxton told attendees.

LaTrina Antoine

Special to the AFRO