Jan 12, 2012 • By

Why I am excited about the 22nd Annual MLK Breakfast

“There is another element that must be present in our struggle that then makes our resistance and nonviolence truly meaningful. That element is reconciliation. Our ultimate end must be the creation of the beloved community.”

-Martin Luther King, April 15, 1960, Raleigh, N.C.

As we look forward to this year’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday Breakfast in Minneapolis, the 22nd in what has become a community tradition, I wanted to reflect on why I am excited about this breakfast.

This year’s theme is “Building Peace and Unity in the Global Community.” This breakfast is unique as it’s the first with a global focus and the first with a speaker with an international background.It’s important to reflect on Martin Luther King’s legacy in a global context, because he made an impact from Selma to Soweto. Our speaker this year is a child of two continents and a citizen of the world, Naomi Tutu.

Born the daughter of Archbishop Desmond Tutu in Apartheid South Africa, she has lived in England and presently resides in the U.S. She has worked in human rights, women’s rights, and economic development in Sub-Saharan Africa (she is presently the ambassador for Join My Village), finding a career of teaching, activism, and racial reconciliation.

Her experiences uniquely position her to bridge Martin Luther King’s civil rights legacy to the global community.

Often unnoticed, Martin Luther King himself found some inspiration in global sources. Most noticeably, he modeled non-violent protest from Mahatma Ghandi’s example, where he successfully used non-violent protest to help bring independence to India. From that tradition, King built out his vision for a “beloved community” where reconciliation wills out over retaliation and peaceful non-violence over aggression.

The beloved community was a vision for a society where moral awakening and mutual understanding prevent oppression. At its core, King’s beloved community demands moral people recognize each other’s humanity and connection to each other.

There is a similar concept in South African philosophy called Ubuntu, which proposes that we realize our humanity only by recognizing this connection and responsibility to others. The moral weight of this recognition prevents oppression. Martin Luther King served as an inspiration to leaders in South Africa to turn the page on the oppressive Apartheid system and bring a freedom to all the citizens of South Africa.

The country chose a path of truth and reconciliation – publicly bringing to light horrible Apartheid era human rights abuses and forgiving them. In many ways, the opportunity for retribution and violence would certainly have been a more tempting and easier path.

Whether we call it Ubuntu or the beloved community, Naomi Tutu will help us weave Dr. Martin Luther King’s uniquely American experience into a global fabric. I am pleased and honored we have her with us on January 16, to celebrate Martin Luther King’s legacy to the human rights globally.

Editor’s note: The 22nd Annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday Breakfast, hosted by the General Mills Foundation and UNCF, is Monday, Jan. 16, 2012, at the Minneapolis Convention Center. It runs from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. The event will be broadcast live in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area on Twin Cities Public Television beginning at 8 a.m. Learn more at MLKBreakfast.org.