18 JAN 11: Alpha Bites
It was billed as the "Martin Luther King Unity Awards Breakfast." But without even planning it, I sat at a table Monday with the man some people consider the most divisive figure in Columbus. He denied it, of course. But he left early, as if he knew the Unity Award was NOT being given to him.
Mike Gaymon of the Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce insists his "heart was pure" when it comes to the controversial "tablecloth joke" of 2008. I chased down Gaymon for an interview as he left Monday's M.L.K. Day breakfast at the Trade Center. Gaymon sat two seats from me - and if I hadn't followed him out, C.A. Hardmon would have found out somehow and let me have it.
I asked Mike Gaymon specifically about one claim in The Courier's latest issue - that he told an African-American employee in 2008 he would wear a tablecloth "at a Chamber Eye Opener Breakfast if he wanted to." Gaymon answered you shouldn't "believe everything you read." Not exactly a ringing endorsement of this blog, I suppose....
Mike Gaymon added Tom Wyatt accepted his apology for the "tablecloth ghost" attempt at humor four days after it happened in 2008. The Chamber of Commerce President also indicated there has been no loss of members because of the recent controversy -- and so far, the other side hasn't called a card-burning news conference.
How did I wind up meeting Mike Gaymon at Monday's "Alpha Unity Award Breakfast"? I was planning my usual trip to the noon-hour church service, but then I was offered an extra ticket by State Senator Josh McKoon. He sat between Gaymon and me at a side table, far from the platform - and I don't recall Gaymon reaching for the tablecloth once.
Josh McKoon said he had to leave the breakfast early as well - but he allowed me to ask a few questions outside the ballroom. He expressed doubt about a panel's proposal to balance the Georgia state budget by restoring the state sales tax on groceries. After all, a golden opportunity to tax bread and milk was lost in last week's winter storm.
But these were really sideshows to Monday's main attraction - the 25th annual Unity Awards Breakfast, put on by the Columbus chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha. Phenix City Mayor Sonny Coulter referred to the fraternity members as "Alpha men." The title "Alpha male" probably is a little too hip for this group....
Several groups of people were asked to stand for recognition during the breakfast - but my table had a couple of soldiers who were NOT asked to stand. It was left to Fort Benning Commanding General Robert Brown to note their presence. Considering Martin Luther King advocated nonviolence, it's a wonder Brown was on the platform instead of Roy Bourgeois.
(The general explained the Army is working around the world to "promote Martin Luther King's ideals" of freedom. What would King think of that - since he wanted more money spent on "social uplift" than the military? The drone planes flying over Afghanistan these days might be dropping gospel tracts.)
Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson read the official proclamation of Martin Luther King Day - except she said the date of the holiday was Friday. This was a case of a "day on" but three days off.
The featured speaker at the Unity Awards Breakfast was Glenda Hatchett, better known as "Judge Hatchett" from her old TV courtroom show. For some odd reason, the audience giggled during Hatchett's introduction when her position on the Atlanta Falcons board came up.... [True!]
Glenda Hatchett may have surprised some people during her speech when she said, "This whole notion of tolerance disturbs me...." Hatchett explained that way of thinking stops short of understanding other races and cultures. Most of the time, people say they're disturbed by "tolerance" because everyone else is a sinner.
Glenda Hatchett's main point involved parents caring for children, especially African-American boys. But the real "take-home lesson" may have come from a story of Hatchett's days as a Juvenile Court Judge in Atlanta -- when she ordered a bailiff to "get the crack woman some coffee." Coffee may cure a hangover from alcohol, but the chemicals in cocaine apparently are too close.
The breakfast ended with the big announcement of this year's "Unity Award" recipient. "I don't feel worthy of this award," Russell County Judge Michael Bellamy said with tears to the packed Trade Center Ballroom. It was quite a change from his church service message last January [19 Jan 10] - which had political commentary closer to Al Sharpton than Lee Brantley.
It was an interesting morning to experience - and I walked home from the Trade Center with a few lingering memories of the breakfast:
+ If Alpha Phi Alpha really wants to promote "unity," it needs meats in the breakfast buffet other than pork. Even some casual Muslims would feel put off by that.
+ Former Mayor Jim Wetherington should have left her successor some "keys to the city" in the desk drawer. Teresa Tomlinson admitted to the crowd she had none to give Judge Hatchett.
(That sight sadly reinforces what I heard a man relate during a weekend worship service. Several African-American college students in Thomaston told him years ago the "civil rights struggle" meant they had the right to steal things. Perhaps more civil rights activists should spend a "day of service" processing suspects at Recorder's Court.)
+ Alpha Phi Alpha has a post-holiday drive underway to collect used books for the Mildred Terry Library -- especially books for children to read. If Josh McKoon had stayed to hear this announcement, a few Rush Limbaugh books might balance out the ones by Toni Morrison.
E-MAIL UPDATE: This comment is somewhat related to M.L.K. Day....
Richard, isn't it funny (ironic) that you can be humorous about others, but don't try being humorous about me. I, like you, have always taken the light-hearted look at things and I cannot tell you how many times I have been referred to as weird for doing so. People take things so serious when it is "their" problem but then are not sympathetic to your problems. We have to endure so many "stick-in-the-mud" type people in our travel through life. You just have to be able to find out who the "sticks" are and then determine the depth of their "mud." How many race cards are in a deck of cards exactly? Are they in fours as in a regular deck? Some people sure seem to play them much too often without a re-shuffling of the deck.
Since I play poker, I can tell you the number of "race cards" can vary from hand to hand. If I have an Ace and you only have a Queen, your number of cards for winning the race is only two or three.
By the way, there are things in life worse than being a "stick in the mud." That stick could be sticking out of solid concrete.
Hoping you had a nice holiday, let's check other things which made news....
+ Heath Taylor took the oath of office to become Russell County Sheriff. One perk of the job is that Taylor has a patrol car with his name on it. You may consider Hollywood stars egotistical, but they don't seem to go that far.
+ Robert Bentley was inaugurated Alabama Governor. Bentley has promised NOT to take a salary until the state unemployment rate drops to 5.2 percent. Is this really a good idea? If Columbus has a big economic boom, Bentley could get a payday from thousands of Alabamians leaving.
(Former Governor Bob Riley says his only definite plan for the future is a motorcycle ride to Alaska next summer. Hmmmm - that's a perfect place to go, if you want to be Sarah Palin's running mate.)
+ Columbus teenager Fabiola Morales told WLTZ about being kidnapped for several days. She was found in Athens, Alabama after telling her kidnapper she "didn't want to go to Alabama." If Morales goes on to develop athletic talent, the University of Georgia can visit as often as it likes.
+ Auburn University announced men's basketball star Frankie Sullivan will miss the rest of the season, due to recurring knee problems. He may have time on the bench to form his own musical group - Frankie Goes to Rehab.
BURKARD'S BEST BETS: Gas for $2.92 a gallon at Liberty on 14th Street in Phenix City.... Lay's Stax potato chips for one dollar at Wal-Mart.... and supporters of Robert E. Lee's birthday in Alabama feeling short-changed again....
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