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A man was born 85 years ago who would become the leader of the civil rights movement in the U.S. People followed him in 1963 to the nation’s capital to advance a dream of equality and jobs for all.

Although killed in 1968 while continuing to advance that dream, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was remembered at a prayer breakfast Monday at North Point High School in Waldorf.

The Charles County branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s 19th annual Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. breakfast with the theme “Advancing the Dream for Our Future” was attended by 550 state and county officials and residents.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do to advance the dream,” said guest speaker E. Faye Williams, national chairwoman of the National Congress of Black Women and former counsel to the U.S. Congress’ District of Columbia Subcommittee on the Judiciary and Education. “And from the looks of you, you’re ready and up to the challenge to take care of what it is you have to do.”

Williams said she had three basic points: try to make things right with people in the world, never accept a blessing without remembering where blessings come from and never expect to be served without being willing to serve yourself.

“And that’s how we advance the dream,” Williams said.

Forty-seven million people are living in poverty in the U.S., Williams said, so “there’s always someone who’s not as well off as you are.”

One of the factors contributing to the number of people living in poverty in the U.S. is that the minimum wage has not increased with the rate of inflation, and too many CEOs have a salary bigger than all of the people they work for, she said.

Williams said everybody can be a part of what King said because everybody can do something to help. As King said, change comes with struggle.

“It is through our struggles that we gain our victories,” Williams said.

The celebration of King’s birthday every year is a day of service, Williams said, and she encouraged everyone to “advance the dream” by helping someone.

“Everywhere you go [in the world], people honor Dr. Martin Luther King. But, you know, they also honor our president even when we don’t,” Williams said. “It’s time to stand up and say: ‘Give the brother a break.’”

King would have been concerned with how President Barack Obama is treated, Williams said. Obama is asked to solve problems that no U.S. president before him has faced. She said she believes King would have stood by Obama and helped to create jobs.

“I believe Dr. King would speak out and say our economy is not where it ought to be, but thank God” it is not where it was when the president took office, Williams said. She said King would have supported an increase in the minimum wage and would have worked on immigration reform.

Williams said King would remind everyone who voted in 2012 and 2008 that another election is coming in 2014.

“We must internalize the fact that local and county elections are just as important as national elections,” Williams said.

She concluded her speech by encouraging everyone to help in their community and that complaining about what someone is doing or not doing does not move us forward. She asked everyone to leave with the determination to annihilate evil, serve their communities and give praise for what they have.

Malcolm and Laura Hill of Waldorf attended the breakfast to honor a man whose dream they said still has a distance to go.

“We’re not where we should be,” Laura Hill said. “We’re further than where we were [when King died] but not where we should be.”

Malcolm Hill, 38, said he remembers his parents talking about the March on Washington for Jobs & Freedom when he was a child and what they went through.

“It’s an honor for me to come out and wake up this morning,” said Malcolm Hill, who is a member of Omega Psi Phi fraternity. He said King was a member of Alpha Phi Alpha, but he crossed fraternity lines with his dream.

“It’s an opportunity to see the entire community come together,” said Steve Proctor Jr., president and CEO of G.S. Proctor & Associates Inc., a sponsor of the breakfast. Proctor said this year’s breakfast was the fourth year the company has served as platinum sponsor.

Retired U.S. Air Force Command Sgt. Imam Talib M. Shareef, president of Massid Muhammad Inc.’s The Nation’s Mosque, delivered the invocation and benediction. Shareef was accompanied by 16 members of the mosque and said he welcomed the Charles County branch of the NAACP’s invitation to Monday’s breakfast.

“It really represented the fiber of what was put in place for America,” Shareef said about the invitation during a break before Williams spoke. He said King stood for the fact that humans should not be confined by race, and King’s dream is being advanced today. The ideal of equality for all was in the U.S. Declaration of Independence to allow the country space to grow into the ideal.

“We’re still growing to the measure of the document,” Shareef said.

rbarnabi@somdnews.com