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Tough Times for Tougher People

Photo by Brandon Parigo, Division of Strategic Marketing and Communications

Message of Hope Reverberates Throughout African-American Freedom Breakfast

The resounding history of Black life in America, and a community’s hope of helping shape a more diverse, inclusive world, set the tone for the 27th annual African-American Freedom Breakfast Jan. 18. The event, themed “Tough Times for Tougher People,” was held at the University of Missouri-Kansas City’s Atterbury Student Success Center.

The African-American Student Union (TAASU) sponsors the Freedom Breakfast as a way of compelling us to take stock – to promote harmony and unity within our campus and throughout the community. Students from TAASU staged a program of spoken word, contemporary dance and song that conveyed students’ desire for a better tomorrow. This group of young leaders desires a tomorrow where, as the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, we will “live in a nation where [we] will not be judged by the color of [our] skin but by the content of [our] character.” Those famous words of hope, as keynote speaker Pastor A.D. Stephenson III said “were a message intended for us to carry that dream into victory.” Stephenson noted that King, according to his “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech, did not expect to continue this journey with us.

His address enlivened the audience as he spoke about hope and the influence of Dr. King. Stephenson, senior pastor of City of Truth church in Kansas City, MO is a respected spiritual leader, musician, and community leader.

Health Sciences major Brandon Woods, and Interpersonal Communications and Public Speaking major Zakhari Snow, stressed the importance of working together in their spoken word performances. That theme was echoed by UMKC Chancellor Leo E. Morton.

“At UMKC we work together to break barriers and seek equality for all people,” said Morton.

For the last 27 years, the Freedom Breakfast has not only given hope to attendees, it has also provided hope to Black scholars through the Herman Johnson African-American Scholarship. Senior Brianna Wright spoke about what it meant for her to be a Herman Johnson Scholar throughout her undergraduate career. Wright said the beauty of knowledge is more positive than any reflection in a mirror – a message that Herman Johnson, and his wife Dorothy Johnson, who were dedicated supporters of UMKC and its students, would certainly agree with. Dorothy Johnson was a part-time professor in the UMKC Department of Psychiatry and the First Advisory Council Chair of the Women’s Foundation. Herman Johnson was the first African-American on the UMKC Board of Trustees.

Vice Chancellor of University Advancement Curt Crespino spoke of the philanthropic legacy of Herman and Dorothy Johnson throughout Kansas City and UMKC.  The Herman Johnson Scholarship, established in 1987, was the first scholarship created to increase college opportunities for African American UMKC students. The Herman and Dorothy Johnson Residence Hall, which opened in 2009, was named in the couple’s honor for their commitment to UMKC.

Morton noted that many of the Civil Rights demonstrations in the 1960’s were led by young leaders, including Dr. King.

“Still today, young leaders have the ability to pick up the torch and continue the fight for change,” said Morton. “We are facing tough times, but we are tougher people.”

In case you missed it, click here to watch the full Freedom Breakfast program.

Kelsey Haynes | Division of Strategic Marketing and Communication


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