Posted: Jan. 20, 2003


By Celia Cohen

Grapevine Political Writer

When state Rep. Hazel D. Plant invites people to breakfast, they come.

About 400 of them, from the neighborhoods to the highest public offices, they came out early Monday morning for what has become a staple of Delaware's political calendar -- the 19th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Breakfast hosted by Plant, a Wilmington Democrat, and the Organization of Minority Women Inc., where she serves as the president.

The event, held this year at the Police Athletic League of Wilmington at 38th and Market Streets, is a remembrance of the civil rights champion on the holiday named for him and a celebration of his message of unity and inclusion.

It was also an acknowledgement of the pillars of the community that the speakers said have tried to move King's vision forward -- women, churches, labor unions, community organizations like the NAACP and the Wilmington Metropolitan Urban League, and various public officeholders.

The breakfast drew the top of Delaware's political class, including Democratic Gov. Ruth Ann Minner and the congressional delegation of Democratic Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr., Republican Rep. Michael N. Castle and eventually Democratic Sen. Thomas R. Carper, who arrived late.

Also there were Lt. Gov. John C. Carney Jr. and Treasurer Jack A. Markell, both Democrats. For anyone keeping tabs on such things, Markell was seated at the head table, but not Carney. Other officials from the state, city and New Castle County also were present.

Center stage, however, belonged to Lisa Blunt-Bradley, the state personnel director for the Minner administration. She is also the daughter of Wilmington Council President Theodore Blunt, a Democrat who attended the event, too.

Rarely in the limelight, Blunt-Bradley was promoted from the master of ceremonies for the 2002 King breakfast to be the guest speaker this year and emerged as a new and distinctive voice in the public dialogue.

Blunt-Bradley called her speech, "Rise and Shine, or to put it bluntly, Wake Up and Smell the Coffee."

She brought along an old piece of quilt that had been her great-grandmother's and used it to illustrate King's message of coming together, the way a quilt joins what are otherwise odds and ends of scraps.

"When a common thread holds them together, the pieces are priceless," Blunt-Bradley said. "We know in the movement that we need everybody."

She added, "Today King's quilt is strong in some places but tattered and torn in others. . . . The quilt can put out the fires of hate. The quilt can be passed to the next generation. . . .

"Dr. King had a dream. But it's time for every one of us to wake up."

Blunt-Bradley's theme was reflected as well in Biden's remarks. He recalled how people of all backgrounds were engulfed in the events of Sept. 11, 2001, as casualties and as rescuers, and how that lesson shouldn't be allowed to die.

"We didn't use that incredible moment when America was united to remind us of our sameness," Biden said. "Don't yield to your fears. We have to explain why we're all in this together. . . .

"Alone we are not going to make it."