*Every year, in observance of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. federal holiday, the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) hosts an annual Ambassadorial Reception and Awards Dinner in New York City in an effort to bring together the most diverse elements — internationally and domestically — to reflect on how far we have come and commit to even greater progress in the areas of, world peace, justice and brotherhood.

The yearly event has garnered rave recognition for being one of the most popular King’s day celebrations.  Dr. King’s reliance on nonviolent activism became a hallmark of the civil rights movement and primarily responsible for its continued success.  The example it set has become widely admired in American politics and was embraced most recently by the highly controversial Tea Party movement.

 

Roy Innis, national chairman, Congress of Racial Equality, with distinguished dais guests and honorees

 

On Monday, January 17, 2011, the honorable Roy Innis, national chairman, CORE; Herman Cain, president & CEO, THE New Voice, Inc.; Dr. Herbert I. London, president, Hudson Institute; Joseph Lovece, Jr., president, Northstar Foley Contracting; George Holmes, executive director, CORE; and the King federal holiday committee hosted the 26th annual MLK, Jr. dinner at the Sheraton New York Hotel & Towers, 52nd Street & 7th Avenue, New York City.

With the recent success of the Tea Party, some of its most vocal leaders attended the dinner including Mr. Cain who has been talked about as a potential presidential candidate in 2012; newly elected Congressman Allen West; David Webb, co-founder of Tea Party 360, a NYC-based tea party organization; and Rachel Campos-Duffy, wife of Congressman Sean Duffy, served as a guest presenter.  The Duffy’s have been very involved in the Tea Party and Congressman Duffy received substantial Tea Party support in his run for Congress.

As for the naysayers and negative press reviews, CORE’s executive director, George Holmes, offered, “Cain, West and Webb have been very pivotal in growing and leading the Tea party movement.  This would run contrary to how most critics describe the Tea Party, as all three are African-American.”

The civil rights organization uses the awards dinner to recognize individuals, who through their words and actions, have helped to further equality.

Roy Innis with Michael Reagan, Dr. Alveda King, Herman Cain

This year, CORE honored Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s niece, Dr. Alveda King, founder & president, King For America; Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president, National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference; and the incomparable old school group, The Delfonics, who thrilled the crowd with a surprise performance of their hit songs, “La La La Means I Love You,” and “Didn’t I Blow Your Mind.”

President Ronald Regan signed the holiday into law in a historic Rose Garden ceremony 25 years ago on January 20, 1996 after calls for a national holiday to celebrate the most recognized name affiliated with the Civil Rights movement after his assassination in 1968.

Ironically, some 25 years later, the son of President Regan, Michael Reagan, founder & chairman, The Regan Group International, was the keynote speaker and delivered a powerful speech which evoked fond memories of Dr. King’s rare legacy that helped serve as an inspiration to so many.

“We at CORE are proud of how we always manage to bring people from disparate backgrounds together to celebrate Dr. King’s legacy, stated CORE’s national chairman Roy Innis.  “In this case we are even more pleased to bring the Tea Party people to our dinner as they have exemplified the spirit of Dr. King and are living the legacy that he helped establish in American politics.”

The prestigious celebration kicked off with a reception in the Empire Ballroom followed by dinner in the Metropolitan Ballroom.  Andrew Breitbart, founder, Breitbart.com, served as Master of Ceremonies and an electrifying performance was provided by Alice Tan Ridley, a finalist of “America’s Got Talent.”  Bishop Harry R. Jackson, chairman, High Impact Leadership Coalition delivered the invocation.

“Never has it been more important to emphasize the successful history of nonviolent activism as it was practiced by Dr. King,” stated Mr. Innis.  “With the country becoming more and more polarized over political issues and the American dialogue becoming more contentious, I am very proud that we can look to the Tea Party as an example of how to make your voice heard in America – at the ballot box and in the halls of Congress.  Dr. King would surely be proud of the Tea Party as an heir to his legacy,” concluded Mr. Innis.

Audrey J. Bernard is an established chronicler of Black society and Urban happenings based in the New York City area.