Two organizations with longstanding ties to the civil rights movement won’t participate in Jacksonville’s upcoming Martin Luther King, Jr. Breakfast, citing a lack of a “real seat at the table” in planning the annual event.

 

The decision is based on “the current absence of respectful discourse around civil rights, economic rights, human rights” and the “lack of our inclusion in the planning of the MLK Breakfast,” says the letter signed by Isaiah Rumlin, president of the Jacksonville branch of the NAACP, and the Rev. Levy M. Wilcox, president of the local chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

Wilcox said Monday a ministerial alliance has an annual Martin Luther King breakfast, and that’s where the SCLC will turn its attention in January to reach out to people “and get them involved in doing things constructively for the community.”

Rumlin could not be reached for comment.

City spokeswoman Marsha Oliver said the decision came as a surprise in light of Mayor Lenny Curry extending several invitations to Rumlin to meet about the annual breakfast, which Rumlin previously said the NAACP would remain involved with.

Most recently, Curry invited Rumlin and Wilcox to be part of a newly formed host committee that will convene Nov. 28 to plan the event.

“The mayor greatly values and supports this annual observance, which reflects and celebrates the spirit of his administration — One City. One Jacksonville,” Oliver said. “In an effort to build on these efforts, and promote greater inclusiveness and representation of diverse communities, the mayor commissioned a host committee to help plan the event.”

The city is organizing the 31st annual MLK Breakfast scheduled for Jan. 12 at the Prime Osborn Convention Center.

On Nov. 6, Curry sent an email to Rumlin inviting him to be on the host committee for “our first planning session” Nov. 28.

Rumlin replied by email Nov. 10 stating he would not attend the host committee meeting. Rumlin attached to the email the letter from him and Wilcox about their organizations deciding against participating in the 2018 breakfast.

The letter from Rumlin and Wilcox says when the MLK Breakfast started three decades ago, the event brought together the NAACP, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the Urban League, the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce and the city of Jacksonville, with a goal of highlighting citywide efforts for equal opportunity, economic empowerment and dialogue across racial lines.

Rumlin and Wilcox said their organizations have not been part of the planning for the upcoming breakfast.

“For our organizations to participate in this event without a real seat at the table is disrespectful to the memory of America’s ‘drum major for justice,’ advocate for economic justice and champion of non-violent peaceful protest,” the letter says.

Shortly after the 2017 MLK Breakfast, Rumlin sent a Jan. 17 letter to Curry saying the NAACP would not be pulling out of future participation in the event, but the planning of the 2018 breakfast should be lead “effective immediately” by the NAACP, the Urban League and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

“We believe that by bringing this breakfast back to the civil rights organizations, it will more accurately reflect the vision and dream of the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King,” Rumlin wrote.

Oliver said Rumlin later cancelled a Jan. 24 meeting Curry had scheduled with him. Curry then went to Rumlin’s office Jan. 31 to meet with him “and discuss concerns about the 2017 breakfast, which was one of the largest in recent history,” Oliver said.

Rumlin and Wilcox did not attend an Oct. 31 meeting with Curry that Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office Chaplain David Williams coordinated, Oliver said.

She said Wilcox currently has a meeting scheduled with Curry this week. Curry sent a letter dated Nov. 6 to Wilcox inviting him to be on the host committee.

“I look forward to hearing your input and advice on making this event a fitting tribute to Dr. King and his contributions, as well as an inspirational launching pad for positive community activism throughout our city,” Curry wrote in that letter.