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Worcester’s 28th Annual MLK Breakfast Marks ‘Continuing Struggle’

Saturday, January 19, 2013

 

The 28th annual Community Breakfast honoring the great civil rights leader the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. will feature the renowned educator, psychiatrist, activist, author, and media consultant Dr. Alvin F. Poussaint as its keynote speaker.

The breakfast, organized by the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Community Breakfast Committee, will be held at 8a.m. On Monday, January 21, at the Quinsigamond Community College Athletic Center.

Dr. Poussaint is a legend in the civil rights community. Born in East Harlem, he graduated from Columbia University, and entered medical school at Cornell where, of the 86 students admitted to Medical School that year, he was the only African-American.

His own experience with racism, especially working as a doctor in the deep south during the Civil Rights movement, lead Poussaint to a life-long career as a psychiatrist studying the effects of racism on the mental health and well-being of Americans of all colors. He has advised a number of federal departments and agencies on racial issues.

"I'm going to indicate that how the attainment of civil rights and equality for black people is a continuing struggle," said Dr. Poussaint of his upcoming address.

This year's Martin Luther King Day is particularly significant as the beginning of 2013 also marks of the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, which freed the slaves during the Civil War, an event that finally began the long-delayed process to allow African-Americans full recognition as American citizens. The anniversary represents a special connection between the past and the present and shows how history is alive and always developing.

"It is a story of progress and setbacks," said the doctor.

Dr. Poussaint spoke of emancipation, followed by the passages of 13th, 14th and 15th amendments, but then the introduction of Jim Crow Laws, institutional racism and segregation in the south. This is where Martin Luther King comes in, whose protests and powerful words helped lead to desegregation, and the Voting and Civil Rights Acts of the 60s; and, eventually such accomplishments as the rise of Barack Obama as the first African-American President of the United States.

"These are major political victories that could not have occurred without the work of black leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr. and going all the way back to Frederick Douglas and Harriet Tubman and others before the Civil War," said Dr. Poussaint.

But he pointed out that the struggle for black equality still continues to this day, simply on changing fronts.

"There has been a lot of progress, but many blacks are still stuck at the bottom. There are many barriers to success in society."

He spoke of the breakdown of the Black family, the lack of jobs, and something within the African-American soul itself as examples of these barriers.

Thanks to so many years of oppression, "many children and black parents still feel inferior internally. We have to combat this feeling of inferiority," said Dr. Poussaint.

Despite his great respect for the leaders of the Civil Rights movement, he reminded everyone that such changes always must begin with the grassroots. Apathy and hopelessness must continue to give way to strength and perseverance within the Black community.

Dr. Poussaint is a co-author of a number of books including Raising Black Children, Lay My Burden Down, and Come on People! On the Path from Victims to Victors, which he wrote with Bill Cosby. In fact, he was also the inspiration for and a script consultant on “The Cosby Show.” In addition, he was the founding member of Jesse Jackson's operation PUSH and co-chaired Jackson's presidential campaign in 1984. He is currently a clinical professor of psychology and Faculty Dean for Student Affairs at Harvard Medical School.

The Quinsigamond Community College Athletic Center is located at 670 West Boylston Street. For more information call 508-854-4368 or email [email protected]

 

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