Annual breakfast honors late Rosa Parks

Published 8:35 pm Saturday, February 9, 2013

The Rev. Willie Hawthorne, left, accepts an award from Dr. Ulyssess McBride Saturday morning during the 8th annual breakfast honoring the late Rosa Parks.

A crowd packed into the fellowship hall at Greater Mt. Triumph Missionary Baptist Church Saturday morning for the 8th annual breakfast honoring the late Rosa Parks and coordinated by the Atmore Family Life Center.

Dr. Zickeyous Byrd, who recently left his position as principal at Escambia County High School to take a job with the Alabama Department of Education, served as the morning’s master of ceremonies.

“We are here to celebrate the achievements of the great Rosa Parks,” Byrd said, adding that each day should be cherished along with the freedoms Parks’ actions have allowed African Americans.

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“This is our first time experiencing today,” he said. “And this is a day we will never experience again.”

This year’s keynote speaker, Dr. Reginald Sykes, president of Southern Community College in Monroeville, addressed the crowd, speaking of the importance of taking advantage of the educational opportunities civil rights leaders like Parks fought for.

“We must educate students and parents of the importance of education,” Sykes told the crowd.

Sykes said even today, almost 60 years since Parks ignited the civil rights movement by refusing to give up her seat on a Montgomery bus to a white patron, African American students are still struggling to make the most of the opportunities available to them.

“In 2010, 45 percent of African American males attempted college, while only 16 percent completed college,” Sykes said.

While urging young men and women of all races to strive for a better education, Sykes said they should not overlook the value of the education offered by institutions other than four-year universities.

“Today’s jobs require some post-secondary education,” he said. “In Mobile right now they’re looking for 5,000 welders. Don’t count out your community colleges and technical schools.”

No matter what avenue is chosen, Sykes encouraged the younger generation to pursue some type of education after high school. Referring to the quote from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “it’s all right to tell a man to lift himself by his own bootstraps, but it is a cruel jest to say to a bootless man that he ought to lift himself by his own bootstraps,” Sykes said, “my dad was bootless, and I’m standing here today because of my dad.”

Sykes said his father never gave up on his son and encouraged students to live their lives with similar resolve.

“You cannot give up on your dreams,” he said. “I know that (Rosa Parks) would agree it takes a community working together.”

In addition to Sykes’ speech, Dr. Ulyssess McBride presented awards to some of the morning’s guests, including the Rev. Willie Hawthorne, former Atmore Mayor Howard Shell and Dr. Zickeyous Byrd, former principal of Escambia County High School, for their contributions to the Atmore community.

Lillie Johnson, Atmore Family Life Center’s coordinator and founder of the Rosa Parks breakfast, thanked the crowd for such a large turnout and the entire staff of Atmore Family Life Center and Greater Mt. Triumph Missionary Baptist Church for organizing the event and the meal.