Rainbow PUSH Scholarship Breakfast Honors MLK and Empowers Youth

Dignitaries from the Chicagoland area braved sub-zero temperatures to attend the PUSH Excel 34th Annual Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Scholarship Breakfast at Apostolic Church of God.

The temperature hovered around -7 degrees at the start of the Monday morning event, but that wasn’t enough to dampen the splendor and mission of this historic, time-honored event: to raise funds for college scholarships and bus tours to historically black colleges and universities.

The theme of this year’s Scholarship Breakfast was “Save Our Children,” which is, in the words of its organizers, a “clarion call to Save Our Children through education reform and education funding equity.”

The event was also an opportunity to advocate for public policies and mental health interventions to curb violence in schools, advocate for civics education to be taught at every public high school, college and university, push for effective courses like STEAM and financial literacy to students in under-resourced schools and address the crushing student loan debt faced by graduates and those in college.

The breakfast provided a platform for policymakers and community leaders in attendance to address the issues that challenge the lives of young people in Chicago and throughout the world, said Push for Excellence National Director Rev. Dr. Janette Wilson.

“When we say ‘Save the Children,'” said Wilson, “It is looking at violence in America and violence all over the world. Our children are dying for violence that they did not cause from adult crises.”

Ultimately, the PUSH Excel Scholarship Breakfast has always been about the betterment of young people while affirming the ideals that Rev. King stood for.
“We have to invest as a nation in our children,” Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle told The Chicago Defender, “If we’re going to have a strong society, we need well-educated, informed young people. And unfortunately, in the city and this country, educational opportunities haven’t been accessible to everybody.”

“We need to invest more in our public schools, both here in Chicago and across the country,” she added.

U.S. Rep Jonathan Jackson, son of Rainbow PUSH founder and PUSH Excel Co-founder Rev. Jesse Jackson, added,” We have to be mindful of those that are left behind in our educational system. When we have fair, equal access to high-quality education for all of God’s children, our nation will truly be blessed.”

Besides Preckwinkle and Jackson, U.S. Rep. Danny K. Davis, Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul, Cook County Commissioners Dennis Deer and Bill Lowry, Mayor Brandon Johnson and Apostolic Church of God Pastor Rev. Byron Brazier provided remarks at the annual breakfast.

Yet, one of the highlights of the gathering occurred when Rev. Jackson, who was in attendance, shared his remembrances of the civil rights movement.

After he addressed the audience to a hearty ovation, NBC 5 Co-Anchor Michelle Relerford, one of the event’s emcees, appeared to echo the sentiment of all who were in attendance.

“Just to be able to hear your voice is a blessing,” said Relerford to Rev. Jackson.

The young people who performed at the scholarship breakfast or served as ushers and guides to guests were the collective highlight of the morning.

The young Southland Preparatory Charter High School Choir vocalists performed Gospel standards. The youth members of the PUSH Excel Oratorical Society recited eloquent speeches that touched on the history of Rainbow PUSH and Rev. Jackson.

Yet still, a 7-year-old performer named Bradley Holt astounded the audience with an emphatic recitation of a poem titled “I Am a Phenomenal Black Boy.”

“I am a phenomenal Black boy! There’s no limit to what I can do!” said Holt to the rapt audience.

“Phenomenal Black boy. Yes, I am!”

In his address, Mayor Johnson honored King and Jackson and highlighted his administration’s efforts to aid the youth, the unhoused, the formerly incarcerated and tipped workers. He also touted efforts to establish a reparations commission for Black Chicagoans. But in his address, he acknowledged Dr. King and Rev. Jackson and the battles they faced during the civil rights movement that persists today.

“As we honor the life and legacy of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, you have to also be very clear about what Dr. King was emphatic about,” said Johnson, “War, poverty and racism are still the greatest threats to humanity.” He added that people must do “everything in our power and everything that we can do to challenge militarism, and racism, and yes, even capitalism, to build a more just and equitable society.”

Below are more pictures from the PUSH Excel 34th Annual Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Scholarship Breakfast:

Rainbow Push Scholarship Breakfast

Rainbow Push Scholarship Breakfast

Push Excel Scholarship Breakfast

Push Excel Scholarship Breakfast

Rainbow Push Scholarship Breakfast

Push excel Scholarship Breakfast

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