Cass hosts MLK Day breakfast

Correction: A previous version of this article misidentified of the Sam Adams essay winner. The winner was JaVier Long.

CASSOPOLIS — Despite heavy snowfall and icy roads Monday morning, people from as far as Vandalia and Niles filled the hall of the Church of Cassopolis.

As people filed in, still wearing their heavy coats and boots, they grabbed a plate of biscuits, bacon and grits, before taking a seat and listening to the children of Cassopolis share with them the history of some of the most notable civil rights leaders in the history of the world.

Local organization League for Encouraging Empowerment invited children who had taken part in a special MLK essay contest to speak at the annual MLK day breakfast Monday morning.

The breakfast was one of several events planned to celebrate MLK’s birthday. The breakfast was followed by an annual march, a community service opportunity at the food pantry and a prayer service in the evening. Village councilwoman Cynthia Jackson-Ash served as keynote speaker for the breakfast.

“It’s always important to bring recognition to the people who have done great things, and the Rev. Martin Luther King certainly did great things, so it’s fitting that we are taking his birthday to remember him,” Jackson-Ash said. “Why wouldn’t we celebrate this?”

The main focus of the event this year was the children of Cassopolis, with a special event held for them in the afternoon, and the breakfast featuring finalists from an essay contest hosted for MLK Day, according to event organizer Carmen Peake, who said that the village believes it is important to share the legacy of MLK with children.

To bring the focus onto the children of Cassopolis for this year’s celebration, LEE hosted a special event for the children in the afternoon, in addition to having children speak at the breakfast.

“This needs to part of [children’s education]. Education needs to come outside of the school walls sometimes,” Jackson-Ash said. “I think it’s great that the kids are getting out of the textbooks today to talk to people and get other experiences to understand the importance of what Martin Luther King stood for.”

JaVier Long, a sixth grader at Sam Adams Elementary, and Christophe Muboylai, a ninth grader at Ross Beatty Jr./Sr. High School, were the winners of the essay contest. The topic of essays had to feature someone who had made a difference in the social justice movement. Jones wrote about Muhammed Ali, while Muboylai wrote about Patrice Lumumba, who fought for the liberation of the Belgian Congo. 

Both said they were happy to participate in the MLK Day event, as both feel it is important for children their age to be civically involved and to understand the history of the civil rights movement.

“I wanted to participate because my teacher asked who all knew who Dr. Martin Luther King was, and not everyone raised their hands,” Long said. “So, I thought I would do this, so that everyone would know what he did.”

Muboylai added that, having participated in the essay contest and the MLK Day events, that he better understands the history of civil rights and where the country currently stands in terms of social justice.

“[Doing the research for the essay] really shows the progressiveness of society since then,” Muboylai said. “We’ve come a long way.”

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