People from around the state gathered Monday morning as the MLK breakfast finally returned in person — bringing lively discussions of education and activism back to the Boston Expo Center.
Boston’s 53rd breakfast in commemoration of King’s legacy — centered on the theme “Reclaiming Our Rights: Education and Activism” — was the first to take place in person since the pandemic began.
“After two very long years of not gathering in person you look particularly wonderful,” remarked event co-chair Rev. Jay Williams. “All of us together gathered in this place, the beloved community.”
The breakfast followed the reveal of Boston’s “The Embrace” statue tribute to MLK and Coretta Scott King over the weekend, and honored the organization behind the project, Embrace Boston, for their “outstanding service.”
“On the heels of the Embrace, I’m so grateful that Coretta Scott King is finally getting her just do, when we know how often the contributions of Black women are erased or relegated to a historical footnote,” said U.S. Rep. Ayanna Pressley.
Pressley and several other local leaders and activists spoke on a panel about pressing issues within education, including leveling economic opportunity, centering marginalized voices and supporting and recruiting educators of color.
“The fact is that access to education and information is a core factor for the liberation of all people,” said Kimberly Atkins Stohr, Boston Globe writer and event emcee, of the event’s theme.
The breakfast featured keynote speaker Jelani Cobb, Dean of the Columbia Journalism School and writer, who spoke about “Dr. King’s approach to the history of this nation.”
“If we can’t confront the purpose of history, is to immunize ourselves against the repetition of our worst failures in the future,” said Cobb. “If we can’t confront the origins of this conflict, then we’re doomed.”
Several speakers reflected on the last couple of years and changes, especially in relation to the pandemic.
“A year ago on this day, this breakfast was virtual, and I was virtually depleted,” said Mayor Michelle Wu, who became visibly emotional during her remarks. “We were entering week three of right-wing protesters coming to my house nearly every single day with their drums and whistles, with their megaphones and hate.”
The sort of messaging present in those four months of protests, Wu said, spoke to a larger need for an emphasis on truth in education.
Like many other speakers, she emphasized MLK’s message of hope.
“As always, Dr. King has the words for every situation,” said Wu. “Another set of words reminds us that we will be able to rise from the fatigue of despair to the buoyancy of hope. It is sometimes in those moments when we feel most tired, most despairing that we are just about to break through.”