Image credit: Jo Freeman

President Biden and former Speaker Nancy Pelosi were the featured speakers at the annual MLK day breakfast sponsored by the National Action Network.

Founded in 1991 by the Rev. Al Sharpton, NAN hosts MLK celebrations every year.  They feature prominent people, especially heads of organizations and government departments.  Biden was a keynote speaker when he was Vice President.  

Rev. Al Sharpton ran for the Democratic nomination for President in 2004

Awards were given to several people in the run-up to Biden’s appearance, including Pelosi. She told the group “When women succeed, America succeeds.”

Nancy Pelosi holds a small trophy before speaking to the MLK day audience

Another award went to UAW president Ray Curry, who was introduced by Lee Saunders, president of AFSCME.

Martin Luther King III was on the stage almost as often as Rev. Sharpton.  The two have worked together so many times that they are practically family.  

MLK III stands behind Nancy Pelosi while she addresses the NAN breakfast

This year an award went to his wife, Arndrea Waters King, president of the Drum Major Institute.  Gun violence is a major focus of her organization.  AWK told the forum that she looks forward to a day when “guns are regulated and not my body.”

She was introduced by their 14-year-old daughter, Yolanda Renee King, a prominent activist in her own right.  Dr. King’s only granddaughter was named for her aunt, Yolanda Denise King, who died a year before she was born.  Called Yoki, Dr. King’s oldest child became an actress.  

After speaking, Pelosi worked her way through the tables to one with a good view of the podium that was reserved for family and special guests.  Al Sharpton sat next to her after introducing President Biden.  The King family sat across the table.

NAN announced that there will be a march and rally in DC next August, on the 60th anniversary of the original March on Washington.

Attendance at this event was the only item on President Biden’s MLK day schedule.  He had flown to Atlanta the day before to preach at Ebenezer Baptist Church.  Dr. King’s day job was as assistant pastor of Ebenezer, whose senior pastor was his father.  The current senior pastor is Rev. Raphael Warnock, who is also Georgia’s junior Senator.

After speaking, Biden worked the room for fifteen minutes, shaking hands and posing for selfies. Secret service agents stood behind him, keeping a sharp eye on the crowd.  Everyone had been vetted and gone through metal detectors before entering the ballroom.

Jo Freeman is a feminist scholar and author.
Jo has finished her book Tell It Like It Is: Living History in the Southern Civil Rights Movement, 1965-66, and is looking for a publisher.
Copyright ©2023 Jo Freeman.