The Southern Christian Leadership Conference and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People have opted out of next year’s annual MLK Breakfast. We have decided not to attend, participate and support the city’s celebration of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Breakfast in January 2018.
We will no longer choose to go along with Mayor Lenny Curry’s direction to continuously ignore the serious economic, racial and social injustices that plague this city. We no longer want to be considered a silent partner given absolutely no opportunity in the true planning and execution of the city’s premier event for the New Year, highlighting Dr. King’s life’s work of challenging injustice everywhere and his courageous contributions to the world. In actuality, we were only invited to the city’s planning meetings to rubber-stamp a preapproved plan for execution.
SCLC is the organization founded by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. We are charged with the heavy responsibility in this world to carry on his humanitarian convictions based upon the principle goals of racial injustice, economic injustice and nonviolence. These two Civil Rights Organizations felt that 30 years was enough time, and too long for us to be seen and not heard nor taken seriously as stakeholders and moral partners in formulating the future direction of our city. Ron Littlepage’s article, “Time for City Hall to cast a wider net,” cited the city’s saga and endemic disparities of not awarding contracts justly and equally to all citizens. “Down and Dirty” contracts will continue in Curry’s administration, if the citizens do not say “enough is enough.” We the citizens must demand accountability in the system of granting city contracts. We also need to insist on more over-watch by the City Council, Ethics Office and the Office of the Inspector General.
The article by Littlepage also documented the lack of diversity among the engineers employed by City Hall. This is a clear case and necessity that speaks to the reality that the Civil Rights struggle is real and alive today inside of the Mayor’s headquarters. Littlepage made a definitive point for those who are concerned about making this “One City. One Jacksonville.” For these reasons alone, our city desperately needs economic justice, equality, unity and strength. We are asking concerned citizens of our city to add their voices and join Dr. King’s historic Civil Rights organization and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People now, and today in 2017 to speak truth to power in this city.
Dr. King said it best in this quotation: “Change does not roll on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle, and so we must straighten our backs and work for our freedom. A man can’t ride you unless your back is bent.”
Gray is the board chair of the Jacksonville Chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.