Martin Luther King Jr. ended his most famous speech by talking about a dream, but he began that same speech by talking about America’s unfinished business. The Rev. Raphael Gamaliel Warnock, senior pastor of the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, encouraged attendees at the 14th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Freedom Breakfast Jan. 13 to take on that work.
“Dr. King loved Schubert’s unfinished symphony. It is a classic, but unlike most symphonies, it only has two movements,” Warnock said. “If you think about it, all of our lives are like an unfinished symphony. We die with a project unfinished. While we celebrate his work, let us not cash in the dream for
sentimental memories. He understood that this work builds one block upon another.”
The breakfast commemorates the life of the late civil rights leader and honors the exemplary community service work of individuals in Athens and the university community. The event, held at the Grand Hall of the Tate Student Center, is sponsored by UGA, the Athens-Clarke County Unified Government and the Clarke County School District.
Warnock told the estimated 600 people in attendance that “we must become allergic to bigotry.”
He also reiterated the importance of investing in people, particularly children, calling them “the most important resource we could ever have.”
At the breakfast, UGA also recognized four people who are taking steps to promote equality and justice.
Elizabeth Louis, a doctoral candidate in psychology; Barbara McCaskill, professor of English and co-director of the Civil Rights Digital Library Initiative; and Fred O. Smith and Lee E. Zimmerman Smith, co-founders of the Creative Visions Foundation, received the President’s Fulfilling the Dream Award for their efforts to make King’s dream of equality and justice a reality.
Louis works as a graduate assistant in UGA’s Office of Institutional Diversity. Her research interests include ethnic minority and immigrant mental health and trauma; the influence of culture, religion and spirituality in coping with traumatic experiences; and disaster mental health and humanitarian psychosocial interventions.
McCaskill, who has been on the UGA faculty for 25 years, helped develop and implement the English department’s Multicultural American literature curriculum. She has published four books and scores of essays and book chapters on African-American literature and literary subjects. In the Athens community, she has taught classes about the literature and film of the civil rights movement for UGA’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute.
The Smiths have been active in many organizations. In 1989, they started the Creative Visions Foundation, a community-based nonprofit organization that provided after-school, weekend and summer educational enrichment to Athens-area youth. In 2012, they created the first Athens Area Black History Bowl, aimed at connecting youth to their history through questions specifically about local and regional African-American history.
In addition, Kerry Miller, Mary Diallo and Harold Black, the first African-Americans to enroll at UGA as freshmen, were recognized at the breakfast on the 50th anniversary of their graduation as part of the Class of 1966 (see “First African-Americans to enroll at UGA discuss undergrad experience“).
The Freedom Breakfast and the President’s Fulfilling the Dream Awards are coordinated by the UGA Office of Institutional Diversity.