Asheville’s 39th Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Prayer Breakfast

Dr. Joy DeGruy
Dr. Joy DeGruy is the author of Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome—America’s Legacy of Enduring Injury and Healing.

Educator and Writer Dr. Joy DeGruy to Keynote.

The Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Association of Asheville and Buncombe County, Inc. announced that internationally renowned author and educator Dr. Joy DeGruy will deliver the keynote address at its 39th annual Prayer Breakfast. The breakfast will be held Saturday, January 18, 2020 from 8:30 to 10 a.m. at the Crowne Plaza Resort in Asheville. Reserved seats are sold out, but individual tickets may be available at the door on the morning of the event.

Dr. DeGruy is known as an ambassador for healing and a voice for those who have struggled in search of their history and pain of slavery. Her groundbreaking book, Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome—America’s Legacy of Enduring Injury and Healing, addresses the origins and residual impacts of the trauma of the slave trade on Americans of African descent, even a century and a half after slavery ended.

In her work Dr. DeGruy examines the conditions that led to the Atlantic slave trade, the seemingly insurmountable obstacles that African Americans faced as a result, and the adaptive behaviors they developed that allowed them to survive and often even thrive. Dr. Oralene Graves Simmons, chair of the Martin Luther King Jr. Association, said that bringing in Dr. DeGruy “is a way to help her audience understand how the past has influenced the present. Her insights and presentation will open a discussion as to how we can use the strengths we have gained to heal.”

Asheville’s first Martin Luther King Jr. Prayer Breakfast was held in January 1982 at the Montford Community Center, under the auspices of the Asheville Parks and Recreation Department. It was organized by Dr. Simmons when she worked as a Parks and Recreation Activities Director. Within a few years the event had grown to fill the Asheville Civic Center, and in 2000—the year the Association was chartered as an independent nonprofit—the breakfast moved to the Grand Ballroom of the Grove Park Inn. Since 2015 it has been held in the spacious ballroom of the Crowne Plaza Resort, where it attracts more than 1,000 Asheville residents and visitors each year.

Dr. DeGruy holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Communications; masters degrees in Social Work and Psychology; and a PhD in Social Work Research. An Assistant Professor at Portland State University, her academic and policy affiliations have included the University of Chicago, Oxford, Harvard, Columbia, and Fisk universities, and Morehouse College. A highly sought-after expert, she has appeared on CNN, ABC, NPR, Pacifica Network stations, and in The New York Times, Essence, The Journal of Black Psychology, and other publications.

Additional January 20 Events

On Monday, the official federal King Holiday, the MLK Association will host its annual Peace March and Rally beginning at 11:30 a.m. at Berry Temple United Methodist Church, 34 College Place in Asheville, and continuing to City-County Plaza.

The church rally will feature music by the Brown Temple CME Church choir and a Praise Dance by the St. James AME Church Prophetic Dance Ministry. Brenda Mills, the City of Asheville’s Neighborhood and Community Engagement Manager, will introduce the program, and “Change Agent Cooper,” community activist and coordinator of UpSkill WNC, will discuss the importance and focus of The Occasion.

At City-County Plaza, Dr. Garikai “Kai” Campbell, Provost of UNC Asheville; Erwin High School student Aleah Crawford; and the Rev. Amy Cantrell of Beloved Asheville faith community will address the audience. Coffee and hot chocolate will be provided courtesy of McDonalds of Asheville, and music by Randy Weston’s renowned WestSound combo.

At 6 p.m. the Association’s annual Candlelight Service will honor recipients of the Martin Luther King Community Service Award, hosted by Central United Methodist Church, at 27 Church Street downtown. The keynote speaker for the Candlelight Service will be Cassius Cash, Superintendent of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Both events are free for all to attend.

  • For more information about the Martin Luther King Jr. Association and its 2020 events, contact Dr. Oralene Simmons, Chair, at (828) 281-1624 or
  • For details on the Peace March and Rally, contact Dr. Joseph Fox at (828) 421-7580 or
  • For details on the Candlelight Service, contact Joe McGuire at (828) 242-0574 or