Jacksonville NAACP President Isaiah Rumlin speaks Monday, Dec. 11, 2023, about Jacksonville's unified Martin Luther King Jr. breakfasts. For the past five years, Jacksonville held seperate breakfasts to honor the civil rights icon. | Will Brown, Jacksonville TodayJacksonville NAACP President Isaiah Rumlin speaks Monday, Dec. 11, 2023, about Jacksonville's unified Martin Luther King Jr. breakfasts. For the past five years, Jacksonville held seperate breakfasts to honor the civil rights icon. | Will Brown, Jacksonville Today
Jacksonville NAACP President Isaiah Rumlin speaks Monday, Dec. 11, 2023, about Jacksonville's unified Martin Luther King Jr. breakfasts. For the past five years, Jacksonville held seperate breakfasts to honor the civil rights icon. | Will Brown, Jacksonville Today

After 5 years, Jacksonville to unite with one MLK breakfast

Published on December 11, 2023 at 3:42 pm

After five years of having competing Martin Luther King Jr. breakfast events in Jacksonville, the city will have one unified breakfast Jan. 12 at the Prime Osborn Convention Center.

The city, the Jacksonville Urban League, the Jacksonville NAACP and the Jax Chamber announced the change Monday.

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The first MLK Day breakfast started in Jacksonville in 1988 when representatives from the Urban League, the NAACP and the chamber came together to create the event to honor the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. The city became involved in 2009 when the chamber pulled out and the breakfast was nearly canceled. 

Back in 2019, the breakfast split into two events due to what Jacksonville Mayor Donna Deegan and Jacksonville NAACP President Isaiah Rumlin said Monday were multiple reasons.

“I think there were things that led us to take steps away from each other, and so what’s important is that that we all have recognized the value and the desire to unify,” Deegan said.

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Rumlin told Jacksonville Today earlier this year that his organization was no longer involved in the planning of the breakfast after Rumlin challenged the city to devote more dollars in northwest Jacksonville, the westside and eastside.

Rumlin said Monday that having the city, NAACP, Urban League and chamber coming back together for this event was not something that happened overnight. He said it was constant communication with the Deegan administration that led the way.

This year’s theme is “Love and Light, Strength Through Unity,” which is inspired by a quote from King’s 1963 book Strength to Love. King said: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”

The breakfast will feature comments from representatives from all four organizations that came together for the single event and essay contest winners from elementary, middle and high school levels.

Rumlin said that when the breakfast started in 1988, it was never about a handshake, but it was more of an event designed to bring people together in Jacksonville during turbulent times. In light of recent high-profile hateful events in Jacksonville, including the racist mass shooting in New Town in August and hateful messages spread around Jacksonville last year, Rumlin hopes this year’s breakfast will help accomplish the same goal.

“There is too much hate in this country. That’s some kind of way we’re gonna have to come together as one people, regardless of race, color or creed,” Rumlin said. 

Deegan echoed those comments. She said the rash of hateful incidents makes this year’s MLK breakfast that much more important.

“It’s going to take all of us to be intentional in this work. It’s not enough to just stand up and say, ‘You know, we don’t want these symbols in our community, we don’t believe hate belongs here,’ unless we are taking active steps to reverse that,” Deegan said. “And that’s going to be hard work, one-on-one, eyeball-to-eyeball, kneecap-to-kneecap talking to each other. That’s what’s going to get this work done.” 

In addition to the breakfast, a week of service will take place after the breakfast from Jan 12 to 20. The events will include volunteer projects including home repairs, food distribution and neighborhood canvassing — as well as bringing people together to have those hard conversations.

Jacksonville City Council member Rahman Johnson said the events scheduled in all 14 City Council districts are designed to help bring people together with different backgrounds so they can find common ground.

“It doesn’t happen in a day. But it happens when we start somewhere, and this is the start,” Johnson said.

City Council is set Tuesday night to consider allocating $284,000 from the mayor’s task force contingency to support the week of service.

You can buy tickets now for the MLK Day breakfast at Jaxmlkbreakfast.com. Tickets start at $40 plus fees, and table reservations start at $500 plus fees.

For more information on the week of service, go to unitedwaynefl.org/mlk.

Lead image: Jacksonville NAACP President Isaiah Rumlin speaks Monday, Dec. 11, 2023, about Jacksonville’s unified Martin Luther King Jr. breakfasts. For the past five years, Jacksonville held seperate breakfasts to honor the civil rights icon. | Will Brown, Jacksonville Today


author image Reporter, WJCT News 89.9 Steven Ponson has six years of experience covering news in Jacksonville and Northeast Florida. Prior to arriving on the First Coast, Steven also worked in radio in Orlando. He attended the University of Central Florida where he earned a degree in radio and television. Steven has been a reporter, producer, anchor and board operator. Outside of work, Steven loves to watch sports, cook delicious cajun food (as any good Louisiana native does) and spend time outdoors.
author image Reporter, WJCT News 89.9 Steven Ponson has six years of experience covering news in Jacksonville and Northeast Florida. Prior to arriving on the First Coast, Steven also worked in radio in Orlando. He attended the University of Central Florida where he earned a degree in radio and television. Steven has been a reporter, producer, anchor and board operator. Outside of work, Steven loves to watch sports, cook delicious cajun food (as any good Louisiana native does) and spend time outdoors.

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