OCEANSIDE — North County honored the “footsteps of a dreamer” throughout last weekend with acts of community service and the annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Prayer Breakfast.
Each year for the past few decades, the North San Diego County branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) has held the breakfast on the morning of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
Community members had the chance to meet and speak with leaders over a glass of orange juice while listening to several speakers from the NSDC NAACP branch and elected offices as well. The keynote speaker for the event was Ron Hasson, a board member of the National NAACP.
“I’m a child who grew up when Martin Luther King was moving forward in his efforts to bring the dream out in each and every one of us,” Hasson said. “I was excited about the things that were going on but at 18 I was only beginning to understand what the dream was all about.”
Hasson grew up as a “military brat,” moving around to different places and living on bases. That lifestyle, he said, protected him in many ways because of how equality and equal opportunities were established within the military communities.
“(King) was a part of a dream, he was a part of a philosophy and idea that said we all can stand in and stand up for equal opportunities for all,” Hasson said.
U.S. Rep. Mike Levin (D-San Juan Capistrano) also attended the event and spoke briefly on the government shutdown.
“I wish that those of us in Washington could fully embrace the words and legacy of Dr. King as we face an unprecedented 31-day shutdown,” Levin said.
Since the early 1990s, the NSDC NAACP branch has partnered with the city of Oceanside to present its Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Community Awards at the breakfast. According to the city’s website, the award is given to either an Oceanside or Camp Pendleton resident who volunteers for community service and “exemplifies the philosophy and ideals of the late Dr. King, who worked to advance civil rights, equal education, labor rights, voter rights, and who fought racial inequality through non-violence and civil disobedience.”
This year’s recipient was Cynthia Rice, a community and civil rights activist who serves as the vice president of institutional advancement at MiraCosta College.
Several of the speakers, including NSDC NAACP President Satia Austin, touched on this year’s breakfast theme, “In the Footsteps of a Dreamer.”
“We can’t really complain about what’s going on if we don’t get involved,” she told The Coast News after the breakfast. “King gave us an avenue to have a voice and a seat at the table. It’s up to us to press forward and make change.”
On the Saturday before the breakfast, the branch partnered with MiraCosta College in Oceanside to host the annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service. The event gathers hundreds of volunteers to go out into the community to perform various service projects, such as visiting Operation HOPE-Vista to help with maintenance and childcare needs. Austin started the Day of Service event about six years ago, she said.
According to Austin, change must happen in smaller communities in order to make change possible on a larger scale.
“It’s up to us to carry out the message and to do work in the community,” she said. “We could be a better community if we work together.”
Hasson emphasized the importance of working with the younger generation to make the future better for them.
“The dream that Martin Luther King had continues,” Hasson said. “It looks a little different, but it’s not. Because we are different, we grow in a way that we allow ourselves to be committed to a movement, to a society that’s giving us growth opportunities, that’s giving us ideas and ways to be successful as we move forward.”
Samantha Nelson covers Oceanside, Camp Pendleton and the decommissioning San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station. She earned her journalism degree from the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University, and has previously reported for The Athens Messenger in Athens, Ohio, and USA Today in McLean, Virginia. Follow her on Twitter: @samm1son