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MLK breakfast emphasizes courage in face of challenges

Staff Photo: Erin Evans. Rockdale County resident Winston McDonald gets his breakfast Monday at the Martin Luther King Jr. Day Commemorative Breakfast held at LongHorn Steakhouse in Conyers. McDonald joined more than 200 others for the annual event to hear the Rev. Eric Lee, pastor of Springfield Baptist Church, and the Rev. Jeff Meyers, pastor of Conyers First Baptist Church, speak. The men discussed personal courage in facing adversity and to make change for the positive in the example King gave 50 years ago during the Civil Rights struggle.

Staff Photo: Erin Evans. Rockdale County resident Winston McDonald gets his breakfast Monday at the Martin Luther King Jr. Day Commemorative Breakfast held at LongHorn Steakhouse in Conyers. McDonald joined more than 200 others for the annual event to hear the Rev. Eric Lee, pastor of Springfield Baptist Church, and the Rev. Jeff Meyers, pastor of Conyers First Baptist Church, speak. The men discussed personal courage in facing adversity and to make change for the positive in the example King gave 50 years ago during the Civil Rights struggle.

CONYERS -- Stirring words from local ministers during Monday's Martin Luther King Jr. breakfast charged listeners to be courageous in making change and standing up for equality, marching orders that some people took to heart for the local community.

More than 220 people gathered Monday morning for the eighth annual MLK breakfast at LongHorn Steakhouse. The Rockdale County NAACP and the Conyers-Rockdale Chamber of Commerce jointly presented the program of song, prayer and encouraging words.

Pastor Eric Lee of Springfield Baptist Church and Dr. Jeff Meyers of First Baptist Church of Conyers were this year's guest speakers. Both clergymen made references to courage during their talks.

Lee pointed to "economic travail" and other current issues and said we need what King provided.

"And that was spiritual courage to tell people that it is still required of us to make adaptive changes," Lee said. "Because America cannot to continue to live the way we live."

Myers drew his remarks from letters Dr. King wrote while in jail in Birmingham, Ala., "where (King) had the spiritual courage to say some things that all of us needed to hear."

"He had the spiritual courage to challenge both supporters and the opposition," Myers said. "I want to challenge you from the words of King himself to be an extremist ... if we become extremists for what Jesus was an extremist for, our community shall be changed."

In the event's closing, Rockdale NAACP President Willie Gibson described humanity as being "at risk" and encouraged attendees to continue to fight for equality.

"We need everyone of you to man up and step up to the front of the line and help us fight the fight," Gibson said.

A few breakfast attendees reflected on the program and shared their thoughts with the Citizen at the conclusion of the event.

"The most impressive thing was the cooperative spirit of the clergy of Rockdale County, trying to promote a united front for the citizens of this county -- which is much needed," Selwynn Howard said.

Howard, a doctor at Rockdale Medical Center, attended the event with his wife, Paytie, and their two daughters.

"I think people have to know that we have much more in common than we do differently," Howard said. "I think that's what's going on in Rockdale County -- people are more prone to promote our differences and that's never going to amount to anything and that's what we have to put aside."

In another booth, local residents Carole Mumford and Jacquiline Johnson-Dickson and Frances Williams, visiting from Philadelphia, talked about the program, tying in their personal experiences of King's March to Washington and inequality that was present during those times.

"What truly impressed me about the event was that it was supported by citizens from diverse backgrounds," Johnson-Dickson said.

Mumford, who has attended the annual event before, said she "loved this particular gathering."

"It's such a feeling of camaraderie, that people are together (and) coming together under very unifying principles that we all should be part of," Mumford said. "It's something we should do more of in the community."