Commemorating the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the 50th Anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, more than 1,000 elected officials, faith leaders, and everyday citizens gathered for YMCA’s 24th Annual Arthur “Pappy” Kennedy Prayer Breakfast on Jan. 19.
As the largest such prayer gathering in Central Florida, the YMCA convened the community to honor the legacy Arthur “Pappy” Kennedy, Orlando’s first African-American elected official. This year’s event also honored the Voting Rights Act of 1965, a landmark civil rights law inspired by Dr. King’s peaceful protests in Selma, Ala.
Commemorating that event, YMCA President/CEO Dan Wilcox said, “All of us today, stand on the shoulders of others. Be it our parents, pastors, teachers or great leaders like Pappy Kennedy and Dr. King, each of us owes a debt of gratitude to those who came before us. Today, through the Y, we hope you find new and meaningful answers to Dr. King’s most persistent question: What are we doing for others?”
As a young Civil Rights activist, keynote speaker, U.S. Senate Chaplain Barry Black said he drew inspiration from Dr. King’s example and perseverance. “In the face of great adversity, Martin Luther King Jr. infused us with unstoppable optimism,” Black said. “By the grace of God, he showed us that we could leave the world better than we found it.”
"How is your life making people… compelling them… to make a commitment to transcendence?" Black asked, then suggested the following. "First, reach out to the marginalized and those who don't look like you. Second, make a commitment to the values that Martin Luther King lived and died for, including the perseverance to attain laudable goals."
"Finally, make a commitment to service," Black said. "Martin was about serving. Imagine being a young graduate of Boston University and getting all kinds of prestigious job offers. And what does he do? He heads for Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery. It was small church then and it’s still a small church today. But what a difference he made."
The event's other featured speakers included Orlando City Mayor Buddy Dyer and Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs.
Charlie Egerton, Chair of the YMCA Metropolitan Board of Directors, joined with event co-sponsors Roberta Walton, President of the Southwest Orlando Jaycees, and PepsiCo Executive John Shumate, in awarding four $1,000 scholarships to outstanding high school seniors. Additional scholarship sponsors included Orlando Health, FordHarrison, and Florida Hospital.
“This is an incredible tradition that honors our region’s best students,” Egerton said. “It also proves that the legacies of Pappy Kennedy and Dr. King are alive and well in the next generation.”
Scholarship recipients included Samuel Santiago, Colonial High School; Joshua Williams, Edgewater High School; Shayla Rhodes, Maynard Evans High School; and Winfred C. McKenrick II, Lake Mary High School.
Rev. Randolph Bracy, the former pastor of New Covenant Baptist Church, received the 2015 Lifetime Achievement Award. In presenting it, Roberta Walton praised Bracy as a “pastor’s pastor” and “giant in the community” who has done much to lift the lives of others.
In offering the closing prayer for Children Families and Communities, Pastor Renaut van der Riet, Chair of the YMCA Metropolitan Mission Committee, shared a story about his family of eight children, four of whom are adopted from Ethiopia. “My 5-year-old niece genuinely can’t tell which of kids are adopted,” van der Riet said. “And I pray today that she never figures it out. I also pray that when our children see us, they never see darkness or hate. I pray that they only see light and love because the world must change and we are the ones to change it.”