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In past years, the room has been filled with nearly 400 people, but attendance at this year’s 27th annual Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Breakfast fell to about 100 when many regular attendees decided to attend the second inauguration of President Barack Obama on Monday morning.

The annual breakfast, held at the Rod ’N’ Reel Restaurant in Chesapeake Beach and sponsored by the National Congress of Black Women Calvert County Chapter, the College of Southern Maryland and the NAACP Calvert County Branch, celebrates Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Hazel Trice Edney, the guest speaker, said, “I am here to tell you that we have not overcome.”

She explained that the word “overcome” was heard so much during the civil rights movement, but “the thing that’s been kind of nagging at me lately is you don’t hear that anymore.” She added that “we’ve kind of gotten quiet in that regard because we think we have.”

She said there is a “unified struggle that still remains. … We’ve stopped too soon.”

Edney, an award-winning journalist, is president and CEO of Trice Edney Communications and editor in chief of Trice Edney News Wire. She is also a professor of journalism at Howard University in Washington, D.C.

“One of the reasons that African-Americans, compared to other races, statistically are so destitute — in every bad category, we’re the worst, and every good category we’re the least. And the reason is because far too often, we come upon a place where we think it’s OK to just rest,” Edney said Monday morning. “But if we take a moment and survey our land, would we say we have overcome?”

She noted that there are thousands of children who have been killed on city streets and in cities across America and that more than 119,000 children and teens have been killed by gunfire since 1979, according to the Children’s Defense Fund.

While nearly 30 percent of black children in this country live in households with not enough food, “we have not overcome.

“As long as this president of the United States has to be protected by twice the security force of any other president in history, we cannot say that we’re finished,” Edney explained.

She said that as long as the economic disparity of African-Americans remains in “the double digits … we cannot be finished.”

“We must all remain ever vigilant [in] our posts” as long as “our children are not free to walk the streets of this nation without finding themselves in the cross hairs of racism,” she said.

“Dr. King set the standard,” Edney said, “when he said in his Aug. 28, 1963, speech, ‘We will never be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.’ Has it rolled down yet?”

Edney said she believes that “if each one of us would do what we are called to do and if each one of us would press in to fill our God-ordained purpose, then perhaps the world’s situation wouldn’t be as it is.”

She told the attendees there are three things people need to do to overcome.

Edney said the first thing is to “stop thinking when you should be praying.” The second thing, she said, is to realize “it’s not all about you.” She expounded her thought, saying people need to forgive and help others. The last thing she said people need to do is to encourage themselves when crises come.

“We, indeed, may have overcome in some areas, but we have not yet landed,” Edney concluded. “As Martin Luther King said, ‘We have yet to get to the promised land.’”

Deborah Riley, the mistress of ceremony and vice chairwoman of the NCBW Calvert County Chapter, said 2013 is an “important, notable” year. “It marks 150 years since the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation,” she said. “It marks 50 years since the ‘I Have a Dream’ speech and the March on [Washington, D.C.]. And it marks the start of the second inauguration for Barack Obama, the first African-American president of the United States.”

She said Martin Luther King Jr. is “proudly” looking down “and thinking, ‘We really have come a long way. Let’s just keep it moving.’”

aharrison@somdnews.com