The founders of the Breakfast Group were young adults in the 1960s. Radio stations were playing Sam Cooke's "A Change Is Gonna Come. " Change came, and...
The founders of the Breakfast Group were young adults in the 1960s.
Radio stations were playing Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come.” Change came, and they became businessmen and professionals and got involved in community service.
And now another change is coming.
Older members are starting to retire, and leadership of the organization recently passed to a young man, Amani Harris, 36.
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I spoke with Harris and with two founders of the group, Ernie Dunston and Herman McKinney.
They work, they volunteer in the community, they spend time with their families. Where is the headline in that? Black guys not in prison. Family stays together. Businessmen give scholarships.
OK, that last one might make headlines — in a small town.
But then Black Seattle is a small city, around 48,000 people. When these guys started the Breakfast Group in 1976, it was even smaller.
There were so few African Americans, McKinney said, that professional people all knew one another. They wanted to provide mutual support and open doors for more people.
The group had a natural evolution. At first it was a few friends talking after work on Fridays. That became the Breakfast Group, a monthly business-networking organization, which evolved into a community-service vehicle.
That last evolution happened because of worries about the increasingly negative news about young black men.
The group’s activity in the community sprawls over lots of territory, but its main focus is encouraging youngsters to make education their business.
Members visit schools and mentor African-American boys.
They hold the annual Tie-One-On Luncheon, at which up to 100 boys who need a nudge in the right direction get a necktie, a pair of business shoes and some inspiration.
And each year they hold the All Achievers Banquet and award college scholarships.
Dunston, a retired Sears store manager, was president for the past 11 years.
The group doesn’t change leaders very often. McKinney, the first president, served 15 years, and Bob Flowers served a few years before Dunston.
Harris, an investment representative with Edward Jones, said he wants to attract more young members. Around two-thirds of current members are 50 or older.
The community, once confined to the Central Area, now sprawls over the suburbs. “How do you create a sense of community in this environment?” he asked.
And he also wants the group to be a home for black businessmen who move to Seattle and are tempted to leave because of the lack of diversity.
Harris knows how that feels. He came to the area as a platoon leader at Fort Lewis, got married and stayed to earn his MBA from Seattle Pacific University.
Joining the Breakfast Group plugged him into the community. Now it’s his turn to give back.
That’s good news.
Jerry Large’s column appears Monday and Thursday. Reach him at 206-464-3346 or email@example.com.