Organizers tout unity during event

Published 12:22 am Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Though last year’s Martin Luther King and Coretta S. King Unity Breakfast focused on black and white coming together for a common goal, Sunday’s breakfast encouraged listeners to fight against injustices.

From demanding voting and worker’s rights to claiming better access to education and dismantling current immigration laws, guest panelists gave stirring messages on the importance of the voting rights movement and keeping the spirit of it alive.

Jubilee coordinator Rose Sanders said there is a great need for unity, especially “now.”

“There’s no greater need for unity than today,” Sanders said. “Yes, we have the right to vote but we have so many challenges, so many efforts against that right … our needs are greater than our differences.”

Guest speakers included Arlene Holt Baker, executive vice president of national trade union AFL-CIO, Janet Murguia, attorney and president of the National Council of La Raza, the largest Hispanic civil rights organization in the U.S., Adelaide Sanford, vice chancellor of the New York Board of Regents and the Rev. Al Sharpton.

Southern Christian Leadership Conference president and nephew of Coretta King, Isaac N. Farris Jr., said it’s important to preserve the voting rights law.

“We have to do more than commemorate,” Farris said. “It’s unfortunate this act is misused. People think it’s a black law or one for people of color. My uncle (Dr. King) didn’t do what he did just for black people. This is an American law; let’s preserve this law for America.”

Murguia said she appreciated the efforts of civil rights activists U.S. Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) and Ben Zealous during the movement, especially for the Latino population. African Americans and Latinos, Murguia said, have a common struggle.

“We need to come together … we have common interests, common challenges,” Murguia said. “You as African Americans can show us — Hispanics and Latinos, the way.

“This is not about immigration, it’s about repeating Alabama’s past that does not bear repeating,” Murguia said. “Immigration is their (America’s) way of turning back the clock. We’re fighting for our dignity, for humanity.”

To end the program, Sharpton encouraged listeners to be mindful of their “value.”

“We lost a sense of who we are,” Sharpton said. “We did not need others to affirm us (in the 1960s). No matter what they call you … you still have value. You can spit on me, dog me but I still got some value. God made me and he made me what I am.

“We’re children of the (Edmund Pettus) bridge,” Sharpton said. “We won’t go back or back down. We fought too hard; we suffered too long; we shed too much blood …

This is our day and our time — no turning back.”