The pastor who works with some of Anne Arundel County's poorest residents and a longtime civil rights activist will be the keynote speakers at coming events in the county honoring the work of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
Both the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Breakfast and the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Awards Dinner, which have become traditional January functions in the county, also recognize residents for work that follows the spirit of the slain civil rights leader.
The Rev. Jimmy Rollins, pastor of the nondenominational i5 Church in Odenton, said inspiration for his address at the Jan. 21 breakfast will come from his childhood, when he stood in his father's shoes, which were too big for his small feet.
"Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. paved the way to make a difference in this world. We have some pretty big shoes to fill as a country, as a nation, as a church, as individuals," the 38-year-old pastor said in an interview.
His address, at an event in its 32nd year, will be geared toward a range of age groups. Nine tables are reserved for youths attending the breakfast.
"My goal is to speak to both generations. It's what we can do to bridge the cap between the iPod generation and the cassette generation," he said.
Since taking over a year ago as lead pastor at the church his parents founded, Rollins has moved the flock's focus toward helping others. Outreach programs include a food pantry, education for local children and several projects that aid poor populations in Africa. The i5 Elite, in its second year, is a youth track team that competes with similar teams but also offers mentoring, tutoring and character-building, Rollins said.
Eugene Peterson, in his second year of chairing the breakfast committee, said he hopes the event will help young generations understand that King "was the leader that galvanized our nation, and we need to reach out to try to live up to his principles."
Proceeds go toward student scholarship, he said. The event showcases students' work though a contest in performing and visual arts. This year, two middle-school students will receive the top $500 prizes that Peterson hopes they'll save to use for college.
County government is not making a donation for the second straight year. Peterson said he did not apply for a grant and would prefer to see a county contribution as a regular budget item — but has not pursued that. Anne Arundel Community College and Anne Arundel County's public schools are regular contributors.
Tickets for the 8 a.m. breakfast in the gym at the community college in Arnold are $35 apiece. For ticket information, call Peterson, 301-538-0887.
The Jan. 18 dinner will feature longtime civil rights activist Xernona Clayton, who worked with King at the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and traveled with Coretta Scott King on her tours.
"Anytime I have the opportunity to talk about the life of Martin Luther King Jr., I am delighted," she said. "More and more, I am finding out that people have an insatiable appetite to learn about the life and times of Martin Luther King Jr."
Now 82, she worked with King in the 1960s, coordinating events and scheduling meetings at his Atlanta offices for people "who came from around the world to see him," she said.
She remembered him working to promote understanding not only in a broad sense, but in small ways. He sent her to a Birmingham, Ala., hotel after public accommodation laws were changed, to allay concerns about having African-Americans stay there for an event in the city, she recalled.
"That was new territory then," she said.
Her autobiography, "I've Been Marching All the Time," was published in 1991, according to a biography on the website of the Trumpet Awards Foundation. Clayton is head of that foundation and executive producer of an awards program that spotlights accomplishments by African-Americans.
Her television career began in 1967, and she worked for Atlanta's Turner Broadcasting System for almost three decades. In 1988, she become its vice president for urban affairs, according to the biography.
This will be the 25th year for the King dinner, which in the past has drawn as many 1,000 people, said Carl O. Snowden, civil rights director of state attorney general's office.
"The insight she will bring to this occasion is one a lot of people will be interested in hearing," Snowden said of Clayton. "She will be speaking about her perspectives on [King's] life, his dream and what's left to be done."
Past proceeds from the dinner have gone toward creation of the Coretta Scott King Memorial Garden at Sojourner-Douglass College outside Annapolis and the Martin Luther King Memorial at Anne Arundel Community College.
Tickets to the 6 p.m. dinner at La Fontaine Bleue, in Glen Burnie, are $60 and $100. For ticket information, call La Fontaine Bleue, 410-760-4115, or the organizing committee, 410-269-1524.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun