Speaker at annual MLK breakfast stresses importance of holiday

CNJ staff photo: Liliana Castillo Rufus Johnson spoke at Saturday’s 17th annual Martin Luther King Jr. breakfast at Clovis High School. Johnson urged attendees to use their day off on Jan. 19 to reflect on the freedoms they have and why they have them.

By Gabriel Monte: CNJ staff writer

In front of an audience of more than 600 people, Rufus Johnson’s booming voice trembled passionately with words of self-empowerment Saturday at the 17th Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Breakfast.

“The aim is to make the holiday a day where people can come together to improve lives and bridge social barriers and move our communities closer to the (future) Dr. King envisioned,” he said, amid cheers of “amen,” and “yes” from the audience.

A preacher and former radio host from Cedar Hill, Texas, Johnson was the event’s keynote speaker.

Organized by the Clovis Martin Luther King Jr. Commission, the breakfast was held at the Clovis High School cafeteria. It is part of an annual celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, celebrated the third Monday of January.

Johnson said Martin Luther King Jr. Day should be used as a day to not only remember the legacy of the civil rights icon, but to carry on the struggle for equal rights.

The fourth-grade and fifth-grade classes of the Arts Academy at Bella Vista performed musical numbers reflecting King’s efforts to fight for equal rights.

Students who won a commission-sponsored speech writing contest about King read their entries.

Proceeds from the event will go to a scholarship fund, according to Pollard. Two Clovis High School students will receive $1,000 each for college, she said. Pollard said more than 650 tickets were sold.

A march from Yucca Middle School to Central Baptist church is scheduled for 9 a.m. Monday, according to Selmus Price of the Clovis National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

The march symbolizes voting rights demonstrations King led and the famous 1965 march from Selma, Ala., to Montgomery, Ala.

A Baptist minister from Montgomery, Ala., King was one of the leaders of the civil rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s. He was killed in 1968 in Memphis, Tenn., where he was supporting a strike by black sanitation workers.