On Monday, Jan. 18, members of the St. Mary’s community and beyond filled the Great Room for the sixth annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Prayer Breakfast. Leaders from the College as well as from outside groups spoke about the importance of King’s work, including William Yoast, one of the football coaches featured in the 2000 movie Remember the Titans.
Nearly 350 guests attended the event to hear talks interspersed with live gospel music. The St. Peter Claver Catholic Church Gospel Choir and the First Missionary Baptist Youth Choir performed both separately and together to draw standing ovations and add further spirit to a room already brimming with enthusiasm.
“This is a great morning to feed our hearts, minds, and stomachs,” said the College’s Black Student Union President, senior Darren McCutchen, during his introduction. Pastor Christiliene Whalen, a chaplain for the Patuxent River Naval Base, echoed his sentiments in her invocation and benediction, in which she thanked God for King’s life and prayed for a continuation of his work.
The breakfast also marked the distribution of the 2010 “Realizing the Dream Awards,” which recognized exemplary character as defined by King’s “I Have A Dream” Speech as well as service to St. Mary’s County. The awards consisted of a plaque and $100 check, which State Representative John Bohanan presented to the four winners: Donald Shubrooks, Aamon Smith, Everlyn Holland, and Theodore Newkirk.
Shubrooks is a sophomore at Great Mills High School and a member of the Young Leaders of St. Mary’s County. His mother Jacqueline Shubrooks accepted the award because a track meet prevented Donald from attending. Smith is an eighth-grader at Leonardtown Middle School who is a member of the local NAACP, is on honor roll, and recently attended the National Young Leaders Conference in Washington, D.C. Everlyn Holland, of Hollywood, Maryland, is a nurse, wife, mother, and activist who served as a steward for civil rights for over 50 years. Theodore Newkirk, of Lexington Park, Maryland, fought discrimination at the Patuxent Naval Air Station by suing the Navy and winning. His actions brought equal treatment on site to military bases across the country.
Smith knew Thursday that she was getting the award, and said she felt excited.
“It’s cool,” she said. “I just feel special because I’m the youngest one to get it.” She added that she had “big shoes to fill.”
Yoast, the white coach portrayed by Bill Patton in the 2000 blockbuster hit Remember the Titans, told the audience about the struggles he and head coach Herman Boone (who is black) faced when trying to coach football at a newly-integrated school in the early 1970s. He outlined how difficult it was to try to “help correct mistakes through the ages,” namely, the “state of segregation,” but that he and Boone managed to succeed in bringing the members of the team together.
“If you had been in that locker room,” he said, “there’s no way to express what we felt…If Dr. Martin Luther King could have been in that locker room, he would have said, ‘Great job.’”
In addition to Yoast, speakers from outside the College included Chloe Toner, a senior at Great Mills High School, and John W. Franklin, Director of Partnerships and International Programs at the National Museum of African American History and Culture. The speakers expressed what King meant to them in their lives and work.
Toner spoke about how although she is white, she has been personally touched by King’s work in many ways, including the ability to attend a diverse school in which her best friend as well as one of her mentors are both African American. Toner said that although the U.S. has not lived up to its full potential regarding race relations, “our nation has come so far since [King’s] time.”
Franklin spoke about the new Smithsonian Museum of African American History, saying that “This museum was the dream of black World War I veterans who wanted their people’s history told in a museum in Washington, D.C.” The museum is expected to open in 2015.
After the breakfast, Yoast sold and autographed copies of his book, Remember This Titan, which sold out before everyone in line could get a copy. In Cole Cinema, the documentary “With All Deliberate Speed: One High School’s Story” screened after the breakfast. The film allowed those who experienced the desegregation of Great Mills High School from 1958-1972 to speak. The film was produced by professor Merideth Taylor, who also led a discussion about the film after its showing. The documentary was made possible by a grant from the PNC Foundation Legacy Project and the Maryland Humanities Council. The breakfast itself was sponsored by the College, St. Mary’s County Board of Education, and the St. Mary’s County Human Relations Commission.