For more than a decade, the event has brought community members of varying racial, political, social and religious backgrounds to promote unity, said Cynthia McClure, this year’s chair of the MLK Unity Breakfast Committee.
“We always have a minimum of 500 guests,” McClure said Thursday. “The event is completely free, we just recommend people arrive early because it will be crowded.”
The MLK Unity Breakfast and presentation of the MLK Unity Award will be at the Northside Hospital-Cherokee Conference Center on Saturday from 9 to 11 a.m., two days before Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Monday.
The award was established in 1999 by Rev. Carl A. Moore Sr., pastor at Allen Temple AME Church in Wood-stock, and is presented each January during the church’s annual MLK Breakfast.
“We really, really had no idea the Unity Breakfast would grow so much,” Moore said. “We started out with less than 100 people attending and now we expect more than 600 to come.”
The event, presented by Allen Temple AME Church in Woodstock and the Cherokee County government, will celebrate the contributions of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and others in fostering racial and cultural unity.
Moore said the MLK Unity Breakfast began when Martin Luther King Jr. Day became a national holiday. Moore said Cherokee didn’t really celebrate the holiday, so his church decided to hold a celebration breakfast in honor of King.
“It’s hard to measure the MLK Unity Award’s effect in the community, except by looking at the growth; we do believe it has brought a lot of people together,” Moore said. “We try to highlight the dreams, aspirations and goals of Martin Luther King Jr., which was unity with all of God’s children.”
Moore said the next year, the county began celebrating the holiday and the event began to grow.
Regardless of people’s race, political, social or religious background, Moore said King’s message was about unity.
This year’s keynote speaker will be Monica Pearson, retired anchor from WSB-TV’s Channel 2 Action News, and Chelsey McNeill, a meteorologist for 11 Alive News, will play host to the event.
“We try to get an individual who has made strides in the African-American community,” McClure said about selecting Pearson as the keynote speaker. “She was the first African-American anchor for the station, and the first female anchor, so that’s in line with the desires of civil rights being acknowledge by Dr. King in his dream.”
McClure said there will be many special guests and performances, including dance and musical performances by various groups from the county.
Among the groups planning to perform are an Allen Temple AME liturgical dance group, the musical Men of ‘Hardt group from Reinhardt University and various school groups.
“The purpose of this event is to promote unity in the Cherokee County community,” McClure said.
The MLK Unity Award will be presented during the event, to recognize an individual who has contributed to the county by fostering racial and cultural unity on a local, regional or national level, according to the award description.
McClure said the name of the winner would be revealed Saturday, and said he definitely deserved the award and was “an awesome person.”
McClure said the award recipient is selected by a committee based on the criteria of effort, impact, inclusion and fairness.
The Northside Hospital-Cherokee Conference Center is at 1130 Bluffs Parkway in Canton.