Dr. Mae Jemison Leads Martin Luther King Jr. Event

In keeping the “C” alive and well at the Y and across our community, the Y of Central Florida united more than 1,200 people of all faiths and backgrounds for the 23rd Annual Arthur “Pappy” Kennedy Prayer Breakfast, honoring the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.


Held Jan. 20 at First Baptist Church of Orlando, the event was attended by local pastors, elected officials and everyday citizens who joined together in prayer, music and reflection.

Headlining the event was Dr. Mae Jemison, the first African-American woman to fly in space. As a ground-breaking astronaut, physician and engineer, Dr. Jemison praised Dr. King for challenging the status quo and opening doors for her and so many others. “People often characterize Dr. King as a dreamer or mistake nonviolence for passivity,” she said. “Not at all. Dr. King had attitude, determination and an audacious belief that all people deserve a place at the table.” With much work still to be done, she urged the group to follow this example.

Dr. King said the best way to realize dreams is to wake up," Jemison said. "There are 86,400 seconds in a day. How will you use them to participate, contribute and make a difference?"


Also speaking during the event were Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs, Orange County Sherriff Jerry Demings and YMCA Metro Board Chair Glen Davis.

For his longstanding work on behalf of local youth and families, Judge Belvin Perry, Chief of the 9th Circuit Court of Florida, received the Southwest Orlando Jaycees’ Lifetime Achievement Award.

As an event co-sponsor, along with Pepsi, the Jaycees also awarded  scholarships to promising college-bound seniors. This year’s recipients included Wanda Willis, Jones High School; Lauren Edmonds and Alexis Sheppard of Boone High School; and Sharonda Lovett, Seminole High School.


Another major highlight was a model rocket launch led by aspiring astronauts and engineers who participate in the YMCA Afterschool Zone's Rocket Club. The Y group included Union Park Middle School student Asia Starling, who received kudos from Dr. Jemison and an award from the Y for her recent recognition as a "National Rocket Champion."

Through our focus on Social Responsibility, the Y of Central Florida unites nearly 5,000 people per year through community-wide prayer events that honor the Christian traditions that make us strong.

For more information about the YMCA of Central Florida, click here.