MLK’s dream to be remembered at annual Prayer Breakfast

 

DOVER — When an event builds a long and storied history such as the Zeta Rho Lambda Chapter of the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity’s Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Prayer Breakfast, it tends to grow naturally on its reputation.

Committee Chairman Nathaniel Williams said that’s why the Zeta Rho Lambda Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha is expecting a crowd of more than 800 to gather at the Modern Maturity Center — at 1121 Forrest Avenue — on Monday, Jan. 16, for this year’s 34th annual MLK Prayer Breakfast.

It promises to be a far cry from the event’s humble beginnings.

Mr. Williams said that probably not more than 30 people attended that first prayer breakfast that took place on Jan. 16, 1984, in the basement of Union Missionary Baptist Church in Dover.

The speaker that day was the late Mal Goode, a renowned journalist for Black Entertainment Television and a fraternity brother.

“We’ve just been doing it for so long and people are always looking for something to do on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s holiday,” Mr. Williams said. “We always have very good speakers and the word just gets out that we put out a good product and that helps us bring the people in.”

The featured speaker at this year’s breakfast will be fraternity brother Aaron Crutison, a past acting general president of Alpha Phi Alpha and the deputy director of Child Welfare Services in Solano County, California.

“Brother Crutison knows some of the local members of our Alpha Phi Alpha chapter,” Mr. Williams said. “He has been in the area before, so he isn’t a stranger.”

The prayer breakfast gives people of all ages and races the opportunity to remember Dr. King’s legacy and to celebrate his life.

Mr. Williams said one of the prominent things that Dr. King spoke about was his desire to have people of all races and backgrounds come together and looked upon as equals and that’s what makes this event so important.

He added that the main goal of the prayer breakfast is to raise awareness among today’s youth of the struggles that minorities had to overcome during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.

“We just want to keep Dr. King’s message out front and center so that people don’t forget,” he said. “There have obviously been a lot of changes recently when it comes to politics.

“So we want to get the message out to young people so we can help them understand how people had to struggle for things in the past so they won’t take it for granted.”

Tickets to the prayer breakfast are $20 apiece and can be purchased from Mr. Williams, who can be reached by email at willine2@msn.com or at 302-242-8783. The breakfast begins at 8:30 a.m.

Music will also be performed during the prayer breakfast’s program.

While Dr. King’s birthday was Jan. 15, the event has long been held on the state’s Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, which is the third Monday of January.

Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc., a chartered nonprofit corporation and the first collegiate fraternity for African-American men, was founded Dec. 4, 1906, at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. The Zeta Rho Lambda Chapter was chartered in Dover in 1956.

The prayer breakfast’s beginnings can be traced to 1979, when the Alpha Phi Alpha General Convention established the Martin Luther King Jr. Prayer Breakfast, and recommended a recognition breakfast be held by all chapters of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity.

Both Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., and Sen. Thomas R. Carper, D-Del., attended last year’s MLK Prayer Breakfast.

“It’s a day as a nation that we celebrate our greatest, religious, political, civic spiritual leader,” Sen. Coons said, at last year’s event. “(Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.) was someone that held up a mirror to America of its own profound failings.”

Delaware State News staff writer Mike Finney can be reached at mfinney@newszap.com.

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