This year’s “Under One Sky”, Interfaith Intercultural Breakfast marked its 25th anniversary. Each year this event brings many diverse people from different faiths and backgrounds together for a morning of friendship, celebration and conversation. Our theme this year focused on Community Healing and Reconciliation.
As the 820 guests arrived they were welcomed by the luring sounds of the bagpipes played by Aaron Shaw and greeted by the smiling students of Poly PAAL and Beach High Schools. Guests were then enticed to enter the Grand Ballroom by the sounds of the drums of the Xipetotec Aztec Dancers, dressed in their colorful traditional costumes.
This year each guest was given a white rose as they entered to put into the vase at their table not only create a beautiful centerpiece, but to take part in a symbolic coming together. Wende Nichols-Julien, Executive Director, provided the audience with a powerful message about the meaning the white rose has in different faiths. She explained, “White roses across cultures symbolize new beginnings. That is precisely the idea behind community reconciliation, that we can repair harms and begin again to work toward our shared goals.”
She shared further that white roses have slightly different meanings in different faith traditions. As far back as Greek and Roman times, white roses symbolized love. In Islam, the white rose is a symbol of virtue and of the soul, flowering among the thorns. In Christianity, white roses are a symbol of the Virgin Mary, light and joy. And for Hindus and Buddhists, the shape of the rose evokes the cup of life or the center of Mandala. In Judaism, the petals of the white rose symbolize mercy.
This introduction set the stage for Dr. Margaret Burnham who was met with thunderous applause. Professor Burnham spoke the names of otherwise nameless African American men who had been unjustly murdered for trying to vote, speaking to a white woman, for being black, for seeking their rights as humans, all which sparked the Civil Rights Movement. She spoke of despair, of hope, of Dr. Martin Luther King, the Freedom Riders and Nelson Mandela, but nothing compared to her haunting recalling of several names of murdered men.
Dr. Burnham left the stage singing, “Well, there’s one kind-a favor I’ll ask of you Well, there’s one kind-a favor I’ll ask of you. There’s just one kind favor I’ll ask of you. You can see that my grave is kept clean” a lyric from the song, One Kind Favor, written by Blind Lemon Jefferson, a popular blues and gospel singer of the 1920’s. With 40 years of experience doing restorative justice work, it was no surprise that when she concluded her message the audience responded with a standing ovation.
CCEJ continues to live its mission of eliminating bias, bigotry and racism through education, conflict resolution and advocacy through events and topics like our Breakfast.
We thank our Breakfast Chairs, Gina Rushing and Tarek Mohamed and give special thanks to the Long Beach Islamic Center for providing the roses as a gift to each guest.
A heartfelt thanks and acknowledgment goes to the underwriters of this year’s breakfast, Ann & Gene Lentzner, Arline & Mike Walter, Richard Perry, Michele Dobson and Hank and Joyce Feldman of Performance Plus Tires.
To view more photos from the 25th Intercultural Interfaith Breakfast click here