Special to South Florida Times

Keynote speaker Ava L. Parker, president of Palm Beach State College, challenged listeners to take action rather than be complacent, during her keynote speech at the 36th Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Scholarship Breakfast, held Monday, Jan. 16, in West Palm Beach.

“You have to do something,” Parker told the 800 attendees at the Palm Beach County Convention Center.

“I’m not sure that in 2017, marching is going to move the needle. The question should be, ‘What are we going to do next to make sure we experience the change we want in our country?’” she said.

“Defend the dream united; promote non-violence, social justice and positive behavior” was this year’s theme for the Martin Luther King, Jr. Coordinating Committee, the breakfast’s sponsoring organization, led by Executive Director Edith C. Bush.

Once again the organization recognized exemplary students with awards in competition categories ranging from oratorical and essay to art and photography. For example, Ruchama Lafontant, an Inlet Grove Community High School senior, won this year’s first place trophy for her MLK essay.

When presenting the awards, Coordinating Committee member Annie Harrison-Nelson thanked the judges and participants, and encouraged parents and teachers to get more students involved next year.

The 2017 Martin Luther King program had a focus, said Hyacinthia Becton, president of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Coordinating Committee. “

… Everyone needs a vision. And that vision was repeated by several people who didn’t appear to be connected, but the message was connected,” Becton said.

Other speakers and dignitaries at this year’s breakfast included the master of ceremony, State Rep. Bobby Powell Jr. and Brealauna “Breezy” Leassear, a senior at The Benjamin School, who encouraged young people in the room to make a difference in their generation.

“The country, our country, is one that was built on a moral fiber that unfortunately Guests join hands in prayer at the 36th Annual MLK Breakfast at the Palm Beach County Convention Center. seems like it’s just floating away before our eyes,” Parker said during her keynote. “It’s almost like it feels like it’s just sand going through our hands, and we just don’t quite know what to do about it. Because you see we don’t have another 100 years. I’m not going to wait until 100 years from 1965 for us to finally get things right.”

“I think we need to get things right, right now,” Parker added. “We need to start today. Please, oh please, don’t just sit and wait for the next Martin Luther King for us to get this right. Because today, you are Martin Luther King.”

The MLK Coordinating Committee’s activities will continue through Feb. 17. For more information, call 561-832-4682 or visit