28th Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Breakfast

By Jennifer L. Warren

POUGHKEEPSIE – Marc Molinaro had one question for the audience inside the Mid-Hudson Civic Center Friday morning: Can we be better?

The Dutchess County Executive, Molinaro, urged those attending the 28th Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Breakfast, hosted by the Catharine Street Community Center, to look in the mirror, study that reflection, and really ponder the answer to those four words. And to do it in the memory of the legend who the morning was dedicated to: Martin Luther King, Jr.

“We have a tendency to sanitize, Martin Luther King, Jr.’s words, but remember he was radical and bold, and most importantly, he asked Americans to look at their reflection, and ask: Could we be better,” said Molinaro. “At his core, he chose to embrace love; he decided to stick to love, and in 2019, we should still stick to that love, but also look at that mirror, and ask: Can we not become and be better?”

Two Youth Honorees were recognized at Friday’s 28th Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Breakfast. The recipients, holding their Certificates of Recognition, were Richmond N. Addae from John Jay Senior High School and Sashawna A. Isaacs from Poughkeepsie High School.

Several individuals who have and had gone to amazing lengths to challenge themselves to be better on multiple levels were recognized during the Breakfast event, held at Poughkeepsie’s Mid-Hudson Civic Center. Eddie and Norma Ramirez, creators of the Hudson Valley Latino Scholarship Fund, were presented with the Richard K. Wager Inclusive Champion Award for their diligent efforts to create pivotal scholarship monies for Latino high school seniors to assist with their post-secondary education. Community Honorees included: Roland E. Butts (posthumously), Dr. Perinnella “Penny” F. Lewis and Jon P. Vincitore. Finally, Youth Honorees Richmond N. Addae and Sashawna A. Isaacs were recognized for their academic and community feats.

“From a young age, both my parents and Martin Luther King, Jr. knew education was the key to success,” said Isaacs, a senior at Poughkeepsie High School. “I strongly believe diversity is the strongest catalyst to progress and how we will improve as a global society, recognizing our wide backgrounds and views.”

It’s that very emphasis on the acceptance of diversity that was at the center of the events guest speaker’s work. Kimbriell Kelly, a reporter for the Investigative Unit at THE WASHINGTON POST, who has also been a publisher and television host during her decorated career which includes a Pulitzer Prize, spoke about her work. However, perhaps more convincingly, she offered a glimpse into her first dealings with racism and the potency of King’s legacy when she recollected a tale of her mother’s introduction to the horrors that can ensue from intolerance.

“My mother was an absolutely beautiful woman who grew up in the south during the Jim Crow Law days, and I always noticed there was a scar on her forehead, but despite it, she was still gorgeous,” said Kelly, who was to learn that distinct engraving could be traced back to her mother’s childhood when a group of white children taunted and threw a brick at her.
Shocked by this revelation and how human beings could actually treat one another simply based on the color of their skin, Kelly became passionate about justice. She entered investigative research, becoming a pivotal player in mining shocking data on the disparity of home loans based on race, the Michael Brown case, and the spike in killings in Chicago, among other critical issues, and helping to change not only laws, but mindsets in the process.

“I use data to tell people things and not to dictate to them what to do.” explained Kelly, who stressed she does not view herself as an advocate.

However, the woman whose work has led to changes in our society’s framework of justice on multiple levels, does hope what she does serves as a form of inspiration….just as King’s message was for her.

“Dr. King talked about justice; I just present data and present it, the same numbers that are out there to all of you to see for yourselves,” said Kelly, who stressed how it’s about what’s done with that data that matters. “So, I put this charge to each of you today: “What do I do next?”

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