MLK Breakfast

In this file photo, with a portrait of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on the left, Rev. Steven Watkin opens the annual Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Community Awards Breakfast Celebration at the MLK Community Center. Rev. Watkin was the master of ceremonies for the event.

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a champion for helping others, and local leaders continue to follow in his footsteps decades after his death.

As a way to give back to them, the 20th annual Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Committee Community Awards Breakfast on Jan. 20 will recognize a handful of individuals for their selfless and kind acts in the community. 

The breakfast begins 8:30 a.m. at the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center, located at 1000 S. Owens St.

Tickets cost $30 in advance, $35 at the door and $250 for a table. All proceeds will be used for upcoming events and scholarships.

A free community luncheon and giveaway of warm clothes and blankets will follow the breakfast.

Individuals being honored at the event span different career paths but all have made an effort to go above and beyond to help their community.

Being honored at the breakfast are: Kathleen Faulkner, attorney at law; Dolores Huerta, co-founder of United Farm Workers; Ken Keller, president and CEO of Dignity Health Bakersfield Memorial Hospital; Allen Thigpen, national director of We Are G.A.M.E.; Josephine Triplett, a child development professor at Bakersfield College; and Polly Warren, who has 40 years of community business experience.

"They have been pathfinders," committee chair Elder Wesley Crawford Sr. said. "You have a person who does something out of the kindness of their heart, does something they’re not being paid for, does something that they’re not receiving government help or any funds for, they’re just doing this to do good."

For example, Triplett helped her students by not only teaching them about child development but opening their eyes to the world around them, Crawford said. Faulkner has been a fighter for civil rights and women's rights for more than 20 years, and Huerta's work advocating for farm workers has changed lives.

Thigpen has traveled around the country to speak with student athletes and help them through difficult moments in their lives, Crawford said.

Crawford's son, Sunni, was one who benefitted from Thigpen's advice and participated in his weekend conferences.

"He mentors you, brings you up in the right way," Sunni said about Thigpen. "At his weekend conference, he brings different motivational speakers and time management speakers in. He helps youth understand the goal ... . He teaches young men and ladies what they need to know if they want to play college ball."

Every year the breakfast is put on, Wesley Crawford gets chills, he said, and he's excited community members want to see the tradition continue.

Now that the committee has been going strong for two decades, it wants to do more for young individuals in the community. One way is through a trip to the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C.

Wesley Crawford said the goal is to take a group of 40 students from Bakersfield City School District and 20 adults to the museum every year in June to see contributions from African-Americans throughout history. It also gives them an opportunity to see the world around them.

"We want to let them know they can go to college and that they don’t have to stay here in Bakersfield," he said. "We want them to get out and get experiences and that starts from history."

The committee is currently fundraising for the trip.

For more information on how to donate or questions regarding the breakfast, call 661-412-8551 or 661-706-4233 or email Martinlkbreakfast@gmail.com.

Ema Sasic can be reached at 661-395-7392. Follow her on Twitter: @ema_sasic.

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