Interim LOC President Dr. Carol Johnson Dean (Center) has the support of the LOC Alumni Association-Memphis Chapter. (Photo: Tyrone P. Easley)

Hundreds gathered in the scenic elegance of Hilton Hotel East on Monday morning for the 29th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Prayer Breakfast sponsored by the LeMoyne-Owen College Alumni Association. This year’s theme was: “2020 Vision: Be the Dream.”

The occasion brought back a favorite son, Dr. Alvin O’Neal Jackson, former pastor of Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church. Now the national executive director of the Mass Poor People’s Assembly and Moral March on Washington, slated for Saturday, June 20, 2020.

“Over 140 million people live in poverty in this country,” said  Dr. Jackson. “That is nearly half the people in America. Think of it—140 million people suffering in this country, living below the poverty line. As director of the Mass Poor People’s Assembly and Moral March, I am working with Dr. William Barber and the Poor People’s Campaign. This is a national call for moral revival. Join us as we seek to be the change our nation needs. We must be the dream. We must be the voice of the voiceless. We are Dr. King’s dream in 2020.

Interim President Carol Johnson-Dean in her greeting had generous words of gratitude for the Memphis Chapter of former students who planned and sponsored this year’s event.

“On behalf of the LeMoyne-Owen College family, I can’t thank you enough for all you do to ensure that our school’s 158-year legacy continues. Your contributions help our students reach the heights of success in their studies and their lives.”

Dr. Johnson also touted notable recognition of two programs in 2019

“Last year, the LeMoyne-Owen College was designated as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education by the National Security Agency (NSA) and U.S. Department of Homeland Security,” she said. “Also, our business program received accreditation by the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP), a global business education accreditation body.” Both announcements were met with enthusiastic applause.

In the prayer breakfast tradition, several ministers made public supplication in prayer for divine favor. Rev. Charles Ewing II., pastor of Gospel Temple Baptist Church, offered prayer for “community and grace.” Pastor Anthony Sledge of St. Paul Baptist Church, Millington, prayed for “peace and justice.” The Rev. Henry L. Key, pastor of St. John Baptist Church-Vance Avenue, culminated with prayer for the college.

Dr. Jackson recounted the very moment he heard that news that Dr. King had been shot.

“I was 17 years old, and I had a job after school in Indianola, Mississippi. I was working when I first heard that Dr. King had been shot in Memphis. It was later on that night that more bad news came. He had died. I remember feeling like my advocate was gone. My voice was gone. He spoke the language of our hearts. Our champion was gone. ‘What was going to happen now,’ I wondered? What about the movement? Who would lead us now?

“I remember just going out and taking a walk down the street, and a car full of jubilant white boys yelled out the window, ‘We finally got him, Martin Luther coon.’

So yes, Dr. King is dead, but we still have a dream. Rosa Parks is dead. Malcolm is dead. Coretta Scott King is dead. Medgar Evers is dead. Fannie Lou Hamer is dead. Maxine Smith is dead…But we are their children, and we are still here. Truth crushed to earth will rise again. We will be the dream. We are the dream.”

The LeMoyne-Owen College Concert Choir, under the direction of Gavin Wigginson, rendered music, along with local favorite gospel vocalist, Debra Manning. Henry Leach was chairman. Ellen Edge was co-chair.