Allen Temple AME Church in Woodstock and the Cherokee County government teamed up for the event at the Northside Hospital-Cherokee Conference Center, which brought out several performance groups, community leaders and elected officials.
Cynthia McClure, chairperson of this year’s event, said the MLK Unity Breakfast continues to grow.
“The Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Unity Breakfast has become the premier event in Cherokee County that recognizes the legacy of one of America’s greatest civil rights icons,” McClure said. “For more than a decade, Unity Breakfast has drawn hundreds of residents from all racial, political, social and religious backgrounds to promote unity among the citizens of the county.”
McClure said the theme of this year’s event, “Changing hearts, changing lives,” is the underlying theme of King’s dream.
The morning event was rich with performances by many local dance and musical groups, including the Allen Temple Hands In Praise liturgical dancers, Cherokee Charter Academy choir, Men of ’Hardt a cappella group and many more.
The MLK Unity Award was presented to Ronald Hammock, general manager of the Chick-fil-A Dwarf House on Highway 92 in Woodstock, for his actions to unite the community, said Snow Mitchell, who presented the award.
Snow said Hammock has many community events each week at the restaurant, and is an avid children’s advocate in Cherokee.
Hammock said he always tries to treat people with “respect, honor and dignity.”
The keynote speaker, retired WSB-TV, Channel 2 Action News anchor Monica Pearson, became Atlanta’s first woman and first minority to anchor on prime time news in 1975.
“Dr. King reminded us to love one another. He understood when you strip away this veneer, our skin, we truly are all the same. We’re bone, we’re muscle, we’re blood, we’re arteries, and heart and brain. We start out as a blank slate, but in time the chalk of life’s experiences scratches onto our brains and hatreds, prejudices, fears, indifference, and Dr. King believed that love is the ultimate eraser,” Pearson said.
Pearson quoted King many times throughout her speech, expressing various lessons left by the legacy of the civil rights leader.
“He reminds us over, and over and over again of the connection that is between us,” Pearson said. “He said, ‘All men are caught up in an inescapable network of mutuality.’ And he addressed it in another way when he said, ‘We are bound together by a single garment of destiny.’”
Pearson said the civil rights leader preached a message of sharing and human connection, and again quoted King.
“He said, ‘Men often hate each other because they fear each other. They fear each other because they don’t know each other. They don’t know each other, so they cannot communicate. They cannot communicate because they are separated.’ Now, even though we are sitting in this room today, side-by-side, we sit in the workplace, side-by-side, and we sometimes share neighborhoods, yard-by-yard,” Pearson continued, “we truly don’t know each other — black, white, yellow, brown and red.”
“Until we learn to share more together … we will never truly get to know each other,” Pearson said.
The event was emceed by Chesley McNeil, a meteorologist with WXIA TV, 11 Alive News in Atlanta, who elicited many laughs and applause from the large crowd.