More than 1,000 civic and community leaders came together to kick-off Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day at Bone McAllester Norton’s annual MLK Day Breakfast.
This event – now in its 19th year – was started with the goal of bringing the community together each year to celebrate, reflect and remind us of the importance of Dr. King’s message and renew the city’s commitment to the social justice issues he fought so hard for.
“Dr. King’s message is in so many ways just as relevant today as it was 50+ years ago. As a law firm, but also as active members in this community, we believe fiercely that we have a responsibility to not just remember his legacy but push each other to keep thinking and talking about its relevance against the backdrop of present-day issues and challenges,” said Bone McAllester Norton PLLC co-founder, Stacey Garrett Koju.
This year’s event broke a 19-year record of attendance and brought a standing-room only crowd to hear longtime civil rights advocate and current Tennessee Court of Appeals Judge Richard Dinkins and Cyntoia Brown-Long. Brown-Long is an author, speaker and advocate for criminal justice reform and victims of sex trafficking. She was also a client of Bone McAllester Norton, who led the legal fight that resulted in her freedom being granted by former Governor Bill Haslam last year. She recently released a book, “Free Cyntoia: My Search for Redemption in the American Prison System,” which earned her a NAACP Image Award nomination.
“In so many ways Cyntoia’s story is a present-day manifestation of Dr. King’s message. Listening to her story challenges us to think about, remember, and celebrate the messages he preached about forgiveness, love, justice, redemption, faith and service,” said Dinkins. “As the passage of time takes us further away from the days of Dr. King, it is so important that we make ourselves constantly reimagine the meaning of his words in today’s context. Talking to Cyntoia today did that in an incredibly moving way.”
“What a great opportunity today was to celebrate Dr. King’s life and legacy but also to talk about how we can each carry forth his message in our own lives today. I have been given an extraordinary second chance. I am deeply grateful to Bone McAllester, former Governor Bill Haslam, and the many others who stepped forward to help me tell my own story and get a second chance at life,” said Brown-Long. “I’m committed, now to standing on the backs of the giants like Martin Luther King, Jr. to ensure we carry his legacy forth – that we give voice to those who need it most and that we inspire others to listen more intently to what they have to say and act on it.”
“What makes a great law firm isn’t only top-flight lawyers, but also a steadfast commitment to the community in which we practice,” said co-founder and chairman Charles W. Bone. “From the day we opened the doors of Bone McAllester Norton, we’ve maintained a dual commitment to legal excellence and community as our compass. This event to honor Dr. King’s legacy is an important part of that, as was our work to free Cyntoia Brown-Long.”
Bone McAllester Norton PLLC is a Nashville law firm with nearly 45 attorneys with an extensive range of practices and experiences including expertise in litigation, banking and commercial lending, corporate and securities transactions, mergers and acquisitions, intellectual property, entertainment and environmental matters. In addition to their legal expertise, the firm has also steadfastly committed itself to a range of community initiatives, including among other things, their 19-year support of the annual MLK Fellowship Breakfast.
Nashville, Tenn. (January 15, 2018) – Nashville law firm Bone McAllester Norton PLLC hosted its 17th Annual Fellowship Breakfast on Monday, honoring the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The event was held at the historic Woolworth on 5th, one of several lunch counters desegregated in 1960 by a group of Nashville students. Nearly 600 gathered to hear from guest artists, speakers, and community leaders on the history of Woolworth, Nashville’s role in the fight for social justice in 1960, and the call for justice today.
Stacey Garrett Koju and Charles W. Bone, co-founders of the law firm, welcomed the guests and laid the groundwork for the morning’s program, entitled Woolworth Speaks – Nashville: On the Frontlines for Social Justice, Then and Now. They compared today’s environment surrounding social justice to the challenges of the civil rights movement in the 1960’s.
The event began with the Negro spirituals, “Lean On Me” and “A Change is Gonna Come,” sung by Charles “Wigg” Walker. The songs reminded the audience of how time has passed, but hope persists in the waiting: “It’s been a long, a long time coming / But I know a change is gonna come, oh yes it will.”
Following Mr. Walker, Charles Robert Bone introduced Mayor Megan Barry, who has been a guest speaker at each MLK Fellowship Breakfast since her election in 2015. In her address, Mayor Barry reminded the audience that the future of Nashville and the future of our Nation rest in the hands of the children, teenagers, and young adults – just as many of the leaders of the civil rights movement were college-age students. She challenged the guests to take advantage of opportunities to mentor and invest in the young adults and children in their lives.
The first keynote speaker, Dr. Reavis L. Mitchell Jr., a history professor at Fisk University, addressed the history of Nashville’s place on the frontline for social justice. Dr. Mitchell drew to light the relevancy and existence of racism today. He said, “Racism has an ugly side, a continuing side that is still a part of the human tradition.” Dr. Mitchell’s comment begs the question, “What are our lunch counters today?” Dr. King’s legacy only continues through those who are willing to take a stand for justice.
Tom Morales, developer of Woolworth on 5th, then introduced his childhood friend, actor, writer, and motivational speaker Barry Scott. Mr. Scott performed a modern interpretation of Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech, “I Have a Dream.” Mr. Scott’s powerful interpretation drew on the heartfelt emotions of the civil rights movement. He charged the audience to remember the purpose of the movement. He repeatedly said, “All reality hinges on moral foundation,” which left the audience asking the questions, “What do I believe? And what reality are my beliefs creating?”
Following Barry Scott, Reverend Becca Stevens, author, speaker, and founder of Thistle Farms, reminded the audience of the call placed upon every individual life. She quoted Micah 6:8, “…what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” Rev. Stevens shared that justice is unattainable without the willingness to say, “Here I am, God, use me.” In order to continue the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr., one must remember the call to love the marginalized, see beyond what the world sees, and say “yes” to the uncomfortable lifestyle justice demands.
The final keynote speaker was Dr. Ernest “Rip” Patton. Dr. Patton was one of the many students who participated in the lunch counter sit-ins, Freedom Riders, and other protests of segregation. He honored sit-in participants who were present at the event - Frankie Henry, King and Mary Ellen Hollands, and others in the crowd who stood to signify their participation. Dr. Patton spoke of the bravery of the participants, who were willing to sacrifice their lives for this beloved cause. He talked about the methods and intentionality of the sit-ins, which required hard work. Everyone who participated in the movement had a different role, but of equal importance. Today when celebrating the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights movement leaders, it is often forgotten that the glory of the ‘60s was marked by blood, humility, and unwavering determination. It was only because of the unified conviction for a better life that the lunch counters became desegregated. Every day was filled with collaboration, sacrifice, and hard work. Dr. Patton urged the crowd to remember that a better tomorrow begins with a better today: “The time is always right to do what is right” (Martin Luther King Jr.).
Dr. Patton closed the program with a moving benediction and song that was often sung in the ‘60s by participants in the civil rights movement, “I Woke Up This Morning with My Mind Stayed on Freedom.”
More than 600 civic and community leaders from across Nashville gathered as part of Bone McAllester Norton’s 18th Annual MLK Day Fellowship Breakfast on Monday, January 21, at the new Tennessee State Museum. The Fellowship Breakfast has become a centerpiece in Nashville’s annual remembrance of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and today was no exception.
Mayor David Briley, Ernest “Rip” Patton (one of the original Freedom Riders), Stacey Garrett Koju and Charles W. Bone, the firm's co-founders, were among the featured speakers. Aside from the speakers, this year’s event also served as the premiere screening of a new short film, titled Perspectives. The film was commissioned by Bone McAllester Norton in collaboration with Centric Screenworks, a Centric Entertainment Group company, and featured Nashville youth and their perspectives on privilege, prejudice and human dignity in today’s society.
The law firm also celebrated its recent success in helping Cyntoia Brown win her bid for clemency by sharing some of her thoughts about the present-day importance of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the importance of really listening to young people. The full text of her message shared this morning can be seen locally in The Tennessean and nationally in USA Today.
Premiere screening of Perspectives at this year's MLK Fellowship Breakfast
Charles W. Bone and Ernest "Rip" Patton Stacey Garrett Koju and James Lowe
Charles Robert Bone
William Hankins, Larry Beckwith and Stacey Garrett Koju
Mayor David Briley
Willa Stansell & Ammon Turner & Mariene Abskharaun Charles W. Bone
Ambassador Andrew Young Celebrates, Challenges and Motivates Nashvillians at 16th Annual MLK Fellowship Breakfast
This year, we had the pleasure of hosting Ambassador Andrew Young at our 16th Annual Fellowship Breakfast. We hold this event to honor the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and it has become a great way to kick-off a day of celebration in Music City.
Young was a close colleague and friend of Dr. King’s and has strong Nashville memories of coming here to learn from a movement led by student, church and civic activists – who were committed to changing the face of segregation. The milestones that were collectively achieved across the south paved the way for people like Rep. John Lewis (Georgia – D), Diane Nash, C.T. Vivian, J. Alexander Looby, George Barrett, Rip Patton and John Seigenthaler as well as Young and countless others, to make an indelible mark on American culture.
Ambassador Young, who now chairs the Andrew Young Foundation, is a former two-term mayor of Atlanta, Georgia Congressman and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. As a global statesman, and lifelong advocate of building collaborative partnerships across socioeconomic groups, he is masterful at using public policy to transform societies for the greater good.
Speaking to a standing-room-only audience of over 600 people, Young graciously allowed a peek into his mindset as he shared his philosophy on developing collaborations, opening up our arms to the opposition, what he practices to create healing and where he places his faith. Tapping multiple references to what he learned from other civil rights leaders, threads of his faith and the importance of believing were woven through each topic that he so eloquently touched during the nearly one hour speech.
“I don’t worry about the future, because as Ralph Abernathy used to say, ‘I don’t care what the future holds, ‘cause I know who holds the future.’ And so I look at the events of the last couple of months different from most people…I don’t question what happened on one side or the other [of the 2016 United States election]…my question is, ‘what is the Lord trying to do with us now!’”
Discussing everything from the current political climate to the importance of practicing the principles that MLK made famous, Young was resolute in demanding that we not focus solely on what ‘our circles’ say, but to reach ‘across the aisle’ in whatever way that means [politics, socioeconomic, sexual preference, etc.].
“The civil rights movement, if nothing else, taught America that it must not…should not be judgmental of each other,” said Young. “There’s a hymn that says it’s not through swords loud clashing…nor roll of stirring drum…but through deeds of love and kindness…that the heavenly kingdom comes. And so this is a day of service, is a day bringing the kingdom into Nashville and Martin Luther King’s birthday reminds of that, but we cannot just do it on MLK’s birthday. We have to do it every day.”
Nashville Mayor Megan Barry welcomed Young during the program which also featured performances by The McCrary Sisters and Lawrence Thomison whose soulful sounds brought the audience to its feet. Music City’s first female mayor also challenged the audience, asking the business community to actively participate in an initiative she launched Opportunity NOW, a youth jobs program that she believes supports Dr. King’s dream.
Starting in February 2017, young people and employers will be able to start making connections through an online portal accessible at on.nashville.gov.
“We learn how to work by working, and I believe the work experiences our young people will get from Opportunity NOW will change a lot of lives – and even save a few.”
After stirring words from Mayor Barry, and being introduced by Stacey Garrett Koju, a founder of Bone McAllester Norton, Young shared that he was living in New York in the 60's when he and his wife learned of what was happening with the student movement in Nashville. The news of Nashville sit-ins prompted him and his family to move back to the south.
“Nashville is a leading city, where I came to learn from the non-violent teachings of people here – citizens and students, during the civil rights movement,” said Young. “So did Dr. King. It is wonderful to be back in Music City again to celebrate and honor my friend, as well as discuss our country’s current political landscape. We must be hopeful for our incoming administration, reach out to people who have opposing views and work together to heal our country.”
In a once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity, at a meeting held after the breakfast, Mayor Barry sat down with Ambassador Young to discuss Nashville, then and now. The conversation between the two was interrupted as Young accepted a surprise call from President-elect Donald Trump. Ever gracious, he offered the phone to Mayor Barry to also speak with Trump.
“I appreciated Ambassador Young giving me the opportunity to speak with President-elect Trump, and I intend to continue having an open dialogue with the Trump administration so that I may advocate for federal policies and programs that will keep Nashville moving forward,” said Mayor Megan Barry, the first female Mayor of Nashville. “Our city would not be where it is today without the vision, leadership and desire of people who came together to create a country that adopted tolerance and acceptance.”
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