The 30th Annual Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Scholarship Breakfast, hosted by PUSH Excel, took place at the Hyatt Regency Chicago Hotel on Monday. This year’s theme was “Breaking the Cycle of Poverty through Educational Equity and Economic Investment.”
Cheryl Grant, from Nielsen’s, stressed the importance of black power through consumerism. Drawing the comparison between the Montgomery Bus Boycott and modern-day spending, she said Dr. King would want African Americans to be more aware of companies that take their consumer choices for granted. She encouraging attendees to move from a state of unconscious bias to being fully conscious and aware of where and with whom you are spending your $1.3 trillion of annual buying power because it matters. Mayor Lightfoot also spoke, speaking on the importance of education. While the city saw an increase in high school graduates attending colleges and obtaining scholarships, she stressed that character must also be instilled in our children. “We must foster character in addition to intelligence.” Each of the Oratorical Award recipient delivered poems on what they think Martin Luther King would say if he were alive today.
The keynote speaker was Rabbi Samuel Gordon. The founding rabbi of Congregation Sukkat Shalom of Wilmette, spoke on the political advancements made in recent history, pointing out the elections of Mayor Lightfoot, former Mayor, Harold Washington, State’s Attorney, Kim Foxx, Cook County Board President, Toni Preckwinkle, and former President, Barack Obama stating these were political victories beyond Dr. King’s dream. Reminding breakfast attendees that it is far too easy to celebrate extraordinary accomplishments, Rabbi Gordon warned not to allow these victories to lead to complacency or passivity. “What happens to America when we lose our compassion?” asked Rabbi Gordon as he explained the various racist attacks and rhetoric that has plagued America since Dr. Kings’ passing. Dr. King would want people to organize, register to vote, and continue to fight against those who threaten to turn the clock back on history and humanity. Rabbi Gordon reminded everyone to continue the fight to make the dream of Dr. King a reality, not give up in the face of opposition, and to build a world of justice, equality, and peace.
Following Rabbi Gordon’s keynote, PUSH Excel Board of Directors Co-Chair, The Honorable Greg Mathis introduced the 2020 PUSH Excel Honorees:
- Creativity & Performing Arts Award – Rodrick Dixon, Classical Crossover Artist
- Presidential Award – Phumzile Mazinuko, Consul General of South Africa in Chicago
- Visionary Service Award – Audrena Spence, Executive Director of Metropolitan Family Services Calumet Center
- Youth Mentoring Award – Kelly Fair, Polished Pebbles Girls Mentoring Program
- STEM Award – Dream Hustle Code
- Racquel Coral-Contributing Writer