Toledo officials will conduct two celebrations to honor slain civil-rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr., but no controversy is expected this year.
State Rep. Peter Lawson Jones (D., Shaker Heights), who has led efforts to identify incidents of racial profiling in Ohio, will be the keynote speaker when the Board of Community Relations holds its annual Martin Luther King, Jr., Breakfast on Jan. 15, the board announced at a news conference yesterday.
The program will be held at the University of Toledo's student union. The university is co-sponsoring the event.
The choice of Mr. Jones was praised by Mayor Carty Finkbeiner.
“I applaud BCR and UT for once again organizing a great program and look forward to hearing the message delievered by Peter Lawson Jones,” the mayor said in a written statement. “Like Dr. King, Mr. Jones is very concerned with those who are less fortunate. His background in the civil-rights movement was exemplary.”
The mayor, who claimed Mr. Meijer was an inappropriate choice, boycotted the breakfast and his administration began its own King function, an awards luncheon at Indiana Avenue Baptist Church, where city workers fed the homeless and the audience.
Many labor leaders criticized Mr. Meijer's choice as speaker because of the store's strained relationship with the United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 911, but they later agreed to support the breakfast after Baldemar Velasquez, president of the Farm Labor Organizing Committee, was added to the breakfast as a speaker.
Both functions were attended by near standing-room-only crowds and drew more than 1,700 people.
Mr. Jones, whose father played baseball in the old Negro leagues, is a popular African-American legislator in suburban Cleveland.
A graduate of Harvard University and Harvard Law School, he is in his second term in the Ohio House of Representatives. He ran for lieutenant governor during Lee Fisher's unsuccessful gubernatorial campaign in 1994.
In an effort to pinpoint racial profiling, Mr. Lawson has pushed for the last year a bill that would require police departments to keep records of every motorist it stops.
Despite grumbling from city council, Mr. Finkbeiner is planning to honor six people at a luncheon this year at the Indiana Avenue church, an hour after the breakfast ends.
Earl Apgar, an administrator with Toledo Public Schools and co-chairman of the breakfast, said the board added a community service project this year where volunteers will perform maintenance at a homeless shelter near the church.
The work will start sometime between the breakfast and luncheon, scheduled to begin at 10:30 a.m., so it won't conflict with the mayor's program, Mr. Apgar said. Volunteers will return after the luncheon to finish the project.