Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Martin Luther King breakfast draws diverse crowd in St. Petersburg

ST. PETERSBURG — By the hundreds they came, diverse in ethnicity, faith, political allegiance and socio-economic status. They prayed and ate, held hands, sang together and honored a man's dream.

The occasion was the 27th annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Leadership and Awards Breakfast at the Coliseum.

At the early Monday morning gathering, guest speaker Gwendolyn Zoharah Simmons, a veteran of the civil rights struggle, spoke of a Martin Luther King that she said some might not have heard of, a man concerned not only about racism, but also about America's militarism and its detrimental effect on the nation's poor.

It was a growing focus of his movement at the time of his assassination, she said.

Simmons, a senior lecturer of African-American studies and religion at the University of Florida, quoted some of his less-known speeches and sermons about his concerns.

"We can't have a system where some of the people live in superfluous, inordinate wealth while others live in abject, deadening poverty," she quoted the civil rights leader, whom she had heard talk at his Ebenezer Baptist Church and her own church, West Hunter Street Baptist Church, where King's close friend, the Rev. Ralph Abernathy preached.

"I think I understand his unrelenting efforts to bring about a change that we now enjoy today," she said, adding that she was grateful that God has let her live to see this day.

"I never would have imagined I would live to see a black man honored with a national holiday," she told the crowd.

Or, she added to cheers, a black man as president.

Mayor Bill Foster, who presented Simmons with the key to the city, greeted the crowd in true Baptist fashion.

"To God be the glory," he said.

"We are beginning with a prayer, we have a parade and then we act," he said, referring to the city's first day of service in honor of King's memory.

Other politicians attending the breakfast included state Rep. Darryl Rouson, members of the St. Petersburg City Council and other local politicians. Former City Council Member Kathleen Ford was also present, but only smiled when asked whether she was running for mayor.

The event was organized by the St. Petersburg Metropolitan Section of the National Council of Negro Women. The national organization was founded by Mary McCleod Bethune. The local council was started by Fannye A. Ponder in 1942. Angela Rouson is president of the St. Petersburg group.

WTVT-Ch. 13 news anchor John Wilson was master of ceremonies. He was honored for the role he has played for 19 years.

The most moving moment of the morning came when the crowd clasped hands around and across tables and lifted their voices to sing James Weldon Johnson's Lift Every Voice.

As they stood, a video showed faces and events of the civil rights movement. As images of President Barack Obama and his family appeared on the screen, hands were raised in thanksgiving and voices rose in a roaring cheer.

Waveney Ann Moore can be reached at or (727) 892-2283.

Martin Luther King breakfast draws diverse crowd in St. Petersburg 01/21/13 [Last modified: Monday, January 21, 2013 3:20pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. For starters: Rays at Orioles, facing another old friend in Jeremy Hellickson


    The Rays take on the Orioles again tonight and will face another old friend for the first time, as RHP Jeremy Hellickson will take the mound for the home team.

    Hellickson was drafted by the Rays in 2005 and pitched for them from 2010-14, then was traded to Arizona. He has since bounced to the Phillies and …

  2. Pinellas construction licensing board needs to be fixed. But how?

    Local Government

    LARGO –– Everyone agrees that the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board needs to be reformed. But no one agrees on how to do it.

    Rodney Fischer, former executive director of the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board Rodney, at a February meeting. His management of the agency was criticized by an inspector general's report. [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]

  3. Charles Bradley, acclaimed Florida soul singer, dies at 68


    Acclaimed Florida R&B powerhouse Charles Bradley, whose raw, pained voice earned him the nickname the Screaming Eagle of Soul, has died of cancer at 68, his representatives announced Saturday.

    Charles Bradley performed at the 2016 Gasparilla Music Festival.
  4. Kriseman and Baker cash race continues as campaigns officially reset


    The mayoral campaign, mostly operating in stealth mode during the two weeks of Hurricane Irma's build-up, arrival and recovery, has entered its stretch run, a compressed schedule of ten days before ballots are mailed to tens of thousands of voters in the Sunshine City.

    Mayor Rick Kriseman and former mayor Rick Baker are emerging from Hurricane Irma mode and getting back into campaign form
  5. Bucs have chance to beat Vikings in their third stadium


    Here's a cool sign that the Bucs are getting up there as an NFL franchise: If Tampa Bay can win Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium, it will mark the first time the Bucs have posted road wins against the same NFL opponent in three different stadiums.

    TIMES ARCHIVES (2012) | Bucs RB Doug Martin runs during Tampa Bay's 36-17 win at the Vikings in 2012, in what was then called Mall of America Field. If Tampa Bay wins Sunday, it will mark the first time they have road wins against the same NFL opponent in three different stadiums.