veronica hendrix

Veronica Hendrix

*Every year about this time my phone rings, emails ensue, text messages proliferate and carrier pigeons drop in wanting the answer to a question that only I can provide.

“Are you having your King Day event this year?”

“Ahh, well, yes. And the Evite will be sent posthaste,” I say with undecided certainty.

In Los Angeles as in many cities across the nation, King Day is celebrated with local parades and interfaith prayer breakfasts. Dr. King’s birthday is on January 15 but the federal holiday is observed every third Monday in January.

Not everyone has the day off. But many take the day off to celebrate and remember the life and legacy of Dr. King.

Perhaps that is why they ask about the King Day brunch I host. I began doing it 2006 with just my brother, sister and cousin. We gathered in my kitchen on a chilly King Day morning, whipped up a breakfast of pancakes and salmon croquettes and watched the parade on television. We talked about Dr. King’s work and how it shaped our world and changed our lives. It was a moment of deep reflection and fellowship. We all felt connected by the moment and the time we took to honor him felt good to the soul.

Well the following year, my family asked if we were going to gather again to observe   King Day and if they could bring a friend. Fast forward to 2013, that small impromptu gathering has  become an annual anticipated event with as many as 30 conscious folks from diverse backgrounds and ethnicities all coming together to honor the memory of Dr. King in a personal and heart felt way.

It is a celebration with champagne and a spread of food that is ridiculous because everyone brings their signature dish. My cousin’s salmon croquettes have become a centerpiece and my guests are often found hovering in the kitchen while he cooks them (which has become part of the whole experience). The aroma wafts into my entry way and when guests approach my home their eyes glisten with delight.

Laughter, love and lightness fill the air as guests meet and greet each other. They connect and catch up.

With all the lightness and levity of the moment, we remain keenly aware of the day and its significance. In previous years we’ve had each guest mark a passage from Dr. King’s speeches and read them. We’ve posted our dreams for our nation, state and community on a visual board and discussed them. We’ve invited local clergy and academicians to attend and discuss the social and political impact of Dr. King’s work. And last year we had a representative from Obama Organization for America attend and talk to us about the upcoming election and what was at stake.

Each year King Day is observed on the third Monday of January. This year it has added significance since it is also Inauguration Day. It is befitting, unprecedented and perhaps divinely guided to have Barack Hussein Obama sworn in as President on that day. You see 20th amendment of the constitution sets the inauguration date as January 20. Since January 20 falls on a Sunday, the inauguration is moved to Monday, and that’s King Day.

This inauguration is the semicolon following the vitriol, rancor and divisiveness of the Presidential campaign which was unlike anything we have witness before. From Republicans waging a war to  make him a one term President,  to the rash of voter suppression legislation erupting in various states across the nation, it has been ugly. Not to mention the nation polls that sought to convince us President Obama was well on his way to being a “one-termer.”

The confluence of these events will take place against the backdrop of the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation issued by President Lincoln on January 1, 1863. A passage reads:

And by virtue of the power, and for the purpose aforesaid, I do order and declare that all persons held as slaves within said designated States, and parts of States, are, and henceforward shall be free; and that the Executive government of the United States, including the military and naval authorities thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of said persons.

 It’s been a remarkable and arduous journey for American and particularly African Americans from the proclamation, to the mountain top and the now the top post of the  Presidency.

I read that the official theme for the 2013 inauguration is “Faith in America’s Future.”

It’s a tough one for me to grasp with that has transpired over the past four years and recent weeks with the shooting in Sandy Hook. So I have to defer to this, quoting lyrics from one of my favorite gospel songs:

We’ve come this far by faith
Leaning on the Lord
Trusting in His Holy word
He never failed me yet
Oh’ Can’t Turn Around
We’ve come this far by faith

Faith will certainly be part of the discussion at my next King Day gathering. American’s future and its failure will be discussed as well. But we always end this day of reflection and reverence with a call to action and what we can do to become more involved and engaged in our community.  And each year we share how we enacted that call and how it not only changed someone’s life, but changed ours. Happy King Day and by all means – celebrate.

Veronica Hendrix is a syndicated columnist and feature writer whose work has covered the span of the human continuum – from clinical trials of male contraceptives, to the gang violence. She is the owner of Bromont Avenue Foods. She is the author of “Red Velvet Gourmet Spice Rub and Seasoning Heart Healthy Recipes.” Visit http://bromontavefoods.com for more information.  For comments, interviews, speaking engagements or moderator requests please send an email to [email protected].