“Today in 2021 I believe that love is the vision that we as Americans need to hold on to now more than ever during these troubling times.”
— Lauren Cornelius, Freshman at Knightdale High School
The 41st Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Triangle Interfaith Prayer Breakfast went on despite COVID on Monday, January 18, 2021. Instead of the usual breakfast for over 1,000 at the Sheraton Imperial in RTP, attendees watched from home as Bishop Michael Curry delivered an inspiring address on the theme “Love Is the Way” through WRAL.com and on WRAL-TV.
Durham pastor William Lucas, a member of The Triangle Martin Luther King Jr. Committee, opened the hallmark of MLK Day by thanking those watching for being “part of history this morning” as the Triangle tradition took place virtually for the first time.
He said, “It’s a privilege to be together to celebrate.”
Although the breakfast was delivered differently, the program continued an integral tradition, including prayers offered by local religious leaders.
“On this day last year none of us could’ve imagined the hardships and the realities that would occur in 2020,” said Imam Mohamed AbuTaleb, Religious Director of the Islamic Association of Raleigh.
“The means of connection might be different, the technology perhaps a little bit unusual and unfamiliar, but what is necessary is that we continue on, for this work is as urgent as it ever was and perhaps more important than ever before,” he said of the virtual gathering. “As we feel the tug of forces all around us, driving us apart, I want us to be the hands and the hearts that bring people together.”
Religious leaders from the Christian, Muslim and Jewish faiths focused on the theme of love.
“Elie Wiesel once taught that the opposite of love is not hate, the opposite of love is indifference…not to care. …When someone is facing challenges, you cannot turn a blind eye,” said Rabbi Eric Solomon of Beth Meyer Synagogue of Raleigh. “We cannot be indifferent.”
Love Is The Only Way
Bishop Michael Curry, Presiding Bishop and Primate of The Episcopal Church delivered the keynote on the 2021 theme “Love is the Way.”
Curry began by quoting Martin Luther King, Jr, “We must discover the power of love, the redemptive power of love. And when we discover that we will be able to make of this old world, a new world. Love is the only way.”
Echoing the sentiments of Dr. King, Curry posited, “Love can help and heal when nothing else can. Love can lift up and liberate when nothing else will. Love is the way. I would even submit it is the only way.”
“It is the way to lead us in the right path. It is the way to guide us beyond unenlightened self-interest to seeking and finding the common good. Love is the way to a justice that is not merely disguised revenge.”
— Bishop Michael Curry
To prove his point, Curry offered that the alternative to love can be seen in events like the violent rally in Charlottesville in 2017.
“We have seen the abyss,” he said. “We have seen the alternative. And that is not the way. Love is the way. We must discover the power of love. The redemptive power of love. And when we discover that, we will make of this old world a new world. Love is the only way.”
“One of the things that must happen, I believe, is that we must have a revival of our values. We have many values. We don’t agree on all of them and that’s fine. The Bill of Rights of the Constitution allows us to have freedom of religious expression, freedom of the press which grants freedom of opinion and perspective. But there are many values that we share in this country. And we must revive and claim them and live them again. They’re not all high, lofty and lifted up. Some are fairly mundane and ordinary and yet they have profound consequences.”
— Bishop Michael Curry
Curry spoke about learning the U.S. motto in fifth grade, “E Pluribus Unum,” which means “from many, one.”
In preparing for this keynote, he looked up the origin of the Latin phrase, which comes from Cicero. Cicero wrote and said, “When each person loves the other as much as he loves himself, then E pluribus unum, one from many, becomes possible.”
Curry said, “That is the motto of our Constitutional democracy…That is the motto, the basis on which our democracy will work and flourish…The basis on which we will rebuild it and repair it.”
The winner of the youth essay contest, Lauren Cornelius, a freshman at Knightdale High School spoke during the first hour of the program.
“It amazes me what African American leaders such as Dr. King, Rosa Parks, John Lewis and Jesse Jackson have done to lay a foundation for many generations,” she said. “We cannot sit back and let everything they did be in vain. We must do our part. Now is the time.”
Cornelius talked about the past year which has included the pandemic and great unrest, reflecting on how she will be able to share this personal experience of “history in the making” with her children and grandchildren someday, much like earlier generations who experienced the Civil Rights era have done.
“I’ve seen so much in the past year I thought was not possible,” she said.
But Cornelius concluded, echoing the day’s theme, “If Dr. King was here today, I’m sure he would tell us love truly is the way.”
And she shared his words, “The time is always right to do what is right.”
“For me, today represents the opportunity to reflect on the way that we show up for the people who need us the most. Are we serving people or are we serving their problems? The way to liberation, the way to justice, the way to the eradication of poverty is love. Love is seeing the humanity in others. Love is finding the humanity in yourself. Love is the resiliency to push through the discomfort of growth. Love is action. It is by loving people more than we love their problems that we can realize a Triangle where success for everybody is inevitable.”
–Nick Allen, Chief Program Officer, United Way of the Greater Triangle
WRAL-TV Anchor Gerald Owens emceed the 2021 Martin Luther King, Jr. Virtual Triangle Interfaith Prayer Breakfast.
The event featured several virtual musical performances including recording artist Kimberly Michelle Prince and the Voices of Amanah from the Amanah AME Zion Church, in Knightdale.
The breakfast also included the presenting of a couple of awards. Nicole Rogers of Blue Cross Blue Shield announced the inaugural John Lewis Student Activist Award winner as UNC-Chapel Hill student Greear Webb. Then Creighton Blackwell of Coastal Credit Union presented the 2021 King Leader Award. The two finalists included Reggie Edwards and Monica Day, and the award went to Kirby Jones. As part of the award the MLK Committee made a $5,000 grant to The Daniel Center for Math and Science, the non-profit Jones founded to support at-risk and economically disadvantaged children in math, science and technology.
Dr. Dumas Harshaw, Jr. of First Baptist Church in Raleigh closed the breakfast with a prayer and a mission: “Let us do more than just envision but let us engage…Let us leave this time together determined to be participants in the kind of transformation and social change that we need as we lean toward one another and as we commit ourselves to a common good, knowing that the way of love is the answer.”
WRAL-TV aired the 8am hour of the MLK Triangle Interfaith Breakfast live from 8:00-9:00am on WRAL-TV; the program live-streamed in its entirety on WRAL.com. The program also aired on FOX 50 at noon.