MLK prayer breakfast on Pine Street: ‘Time to work and serve’

CAMBRIDGE — What are you doing for others?

The question was asked by many of the speakers Monday, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, during the MLK prayer breakfast hosted by the Dorchester County Branch of the NAACP at the Elks Dorchester Lodge No. 223 on Pine Street. The theme was, “A Day of Service: What are You Doing for Others,” which is life’s most urgent question according to the late Dr. King.

Gregory Meekins, second vice president of the Dorchester NAACP branch, welcomed the many guests in the room.

“I’d like you to keep in mind two things — prayer and service. Prayer does change things, but prayer by itself also means us working,” Mr. Meekins said. “Once you get off your knees from prayer, it’s time to work and serve. … We commemorate on this holiday a man of action who put his life on the line for freedom and justice every day. … We call on you to commemorate this holiday by making your personal commitment to serve our Dorchester County community and humanity with a vibrant spirit of unconditional love that was his greatest strength.”

The Rev. Keith Cornish then led an invocation.

“Prayer and service go together,” Rev. Cornish said. “We pray as if it all depends on God. We work as if it all depends on us. Certainly, that should be our motto.”

Dorchester Banner/Bob Zimberoff
Students from Choptank Elementary School were recognized for their winning essays Monday during the Dorchester County Branch NAACP Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Prayer Breakfast. From left in front are De’Shaela Adams, third grade; Ja’Niylah Kimble, fifth grade; Nia White, fourth grade and Hojane Cornish, third grade; back row, Marion Fisher, Dorchester NAACP membership chairperson; James Pinkett, branch president; Kawana Webb, social worker at Choptank Elementary holding her daughter Jasmine; Emma Pinkett, school principal; and Dr. Henry Wagner, superintendent of Dorchester County Public Schools.

Kawana Webb, a social worker at Choptank Elementary School, introduced the third-, fourth- and fifth-grade winners of the school’s Dr. Martin Luther King essay contest. Ms. Webb said the school has held the competition for five years. This year’s theme was based on a quote from Dr. King, “there is no gain without struggle.” Hojane Cornish and De’Shaela Adams were the third-grade winners; Nia White won in fourth grade and Ja’Niylah Kimble was the fifth-grade winner.

Kimberly Conway Dumpson, Esq., was the guest speaker. She has a background in higher education, law, nonprofit management and marketing. She began working at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore in 2005.

In 2012, Ms. Dumpson became vice president for institutional advancement at UMES and rose to executive vice president in 2013. Two months ago, she added chief of staff to her title. Before working at UMES, Ms. Dumpson practiced law in Bethesda, Salisbury and Upper Marlboro, was executive director of the Life Crisis Center in Salisbury and was executive assistant to Wicomico County’s social services director. She was recognized in 2010 by then-Gov. Martin O’Malley as a hometown hero.

“It is indeed my pleasure to be here with you today as we do what so many others are doing around the country this morning,” Ms. Dumpson said, “and that is to celebrate the life of a man who worked tirelessly in the name of humanity, in search of justice, who lived boldly and with conviction, whose life was much too short, whose words remain with us still …”

She said the prayer breakfast was meant to celebrate both the life of Dr. King and the progress of civil rights in the U.S.

“We know that things are not like they used to be, yet the sad truth is that while much progress has been made, there is much work to do,” Ms. Dumpson said. “Throughout the course of the last two years and a grueling presidential election, much has been said about American greatness. Depending upon which side of the aisle you sit, America is either a land of milk and honey, where privilege leads to opportunity, or it is a desolate and barren land with hills of injustice and inequity. To some, America represents a place that has forgotten its values where government is too big and opportunities too small.”

Acknowledging the history of the Eastern Shore and Dorchester as a place of prominence in human and civil rights, Ms. Dumpson said, “As we sit here today not far from the birthplaces of Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass, and in the neighborhood where the devastating riots of the 1960s took place, we know that fighting for justice and equality did not start with Dr. King. … To be certain, the task of assuring prosperity, opportunity and equality is not yet complete. We cannot rest on our laurels of past successes, and marches and protests. We must continue to fight.”

Ms. Dumpson urged everyone in the room to serve.

“Commit this year to joining an organization that fuels your passion and improves a component of society,” she said while telling everyone in the audience to put aside their differences. “We are stronger in numbers and together we can be a driving force for greatness.”

Following the speech, Ms. Dumpson received a Day of Service award from the Dorchester NAACP branch. Herschel F. Johnson, treasurer of the branch, also received a Day of Service award for his work in the community. Mr. Johnson is president of The Friends of Stanley Institute and is also a member of the county historical society, Dorchester County Recreation and Parks, CASA of the Mid-Shore, East New Market Heritage Committee and many other groups.

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