“Americans need to come out of their comfort zone in dismantling prejudice,” the organizer of Black Lives Matter of Columbus said in a keynote speech at Monday’s 21st annual CommUNITY Breakfast Celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. The local African American Pastors Alliance organized the free gathering focusing in part on the legacy of the civil rights movement, and the work that remains to make equality a reality. Columbus resident Brittany King, 28, who organized the multiracial chapter about 18 months ago, earned a standing ovation for her message “Addressing the Elephants (in the Room)” before a crowd of about 350 people at the Columbus North High School cafeteria.

The audience included students and leaders in education, law enforcement, human rights, business, nonprofits, city and county government and other disciplines. The event theme, during the 50th anniversary year of Martin Luther King’s assassination on April 4, 1968, in Memphis, Tennessee, was “MLK50 Forward: Together We Win With Love For Humanity.” Speaker Brittany King, who is not related to the slain civil rights leader, touched on love in her opening, saying: “Unfortunately, that’s not where we’re all at right now.” She used the late King’s “Letter From a Birmingham Jail” from 1963 as a backdrop for her address that became emotional twice near the end — once when she spoke of a local resident who mocked her black heritage on social media and once when she spoke of the strength of her Christian faith.

She called the year of 2017 a blessing and a curse. She mentioned that the curse was easy to identify.

“Some people wore their bigotry proudly,” she said. Yet, she quoted the King as identifying one of the larger obstacles to batting racism: “I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Council-er or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate who is more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice.” The Black Lives Matter leader’s speech resonated with Columbus listeners such as Robin Haywood, who was slightly emotional afterward.

“Brittany brought me to tears, she was so inspiring,” Haywood said, adding that she is especially impressed that King seems bold and unafraid of those who have opposed some of her chapter’s work. “If I had a daughter involved in this kind of movement, I guess there would be times sometimes when I would be scared for her.” Allen Smith said he thought the 21st MLK breakfast in Columbus may have been among the most important in recent years, given that he said he feels racial tensions “are trickling down” even from various national leaders. Read more from therepublic.com…

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