The Rev. DC Darensbourg, pastor of Second Baptist Church, began his speech Saturday morning at the 24th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day Prayer Breakfast at the Christian Life Center at First Presbyterian Church by telling the audience who he would not have had the opportunity spend time with.
"I come from a place where I'd never have gotten a chance to be in the same room with the mayor," he said, "They didn't come to your school, there were no town halls, you didn't get close to anybody who had any power."
It was the reality where he grew up.
-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
Shawn Roberts, of Fort Dodge, holds his sons Simeon Roberts, 4, at left, and Shawn Roberts II, 6 during a prayer at the 24th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day Prayer Breakfast in the Christian Life Center at First Presbyterian Church in Fort Dodge.
"They just didn't show up in my neighborhood," he said. "I"m from the 3rd Ward in New Orleans."
He said instead, he would see drug deals, violence and even police brutality.
He credited his parents with helping him achieve and rise and now carries a message that stresses personal responsibility.
"At some point, we have to take responsibility for the trajectory of our lives," he said.
Darensbourg said that while there is ample opportunity, what often holds people back is a lack of someone to teach them how to recognize it and take advantage of it.
He cited Charles Clayton, director of the Athletics For Education and Success program, as someone who provides that.
"I found in him what I wish I had in the neighborhood I grew up in," he said.
Darensbourg believes offering youths direction, guidance and something to do is critical.
"They have nothing to do but break into your house, steal your television, steal your car, rob you - because they're bored, not because they're bad." he said.
Hoping to give them an opportunity to do that, he's leading efforts to get the African American Cultural Center up and running.
He wants them to be able to learn to recognize opportunity and have the skill they need to take advantage of it.
"Under their own power," Darensbourg said, "not from a check from the government."
While he may not have been able to meet with the Mayor of New Orleans in his youth, the Mayor of Fort Dodge, Matt Bemrich was on hand at the breakfast with a proclamation designating the week of Jan. 13 as Marlin Luther King week.
"I urge all of our citizens to renew their vow to join one another in searching for ways to fulfill his dream," Bemrich said.
Former Fort Dodge City Council member Jane Burleson joined him on the podium.
She talked about King's dream.
"It a dream for everybody," she said. "It's not just for any person of color."
She emphasized the need for African-American children to learn their cultural history.
"We should recognize this honorable man," she said of King, "He died for what he believed in."
Shawn Roberts, of Fort Dodge, brought his sons, Shawn Roberts II, 6, and Simeon Roberts, 4 to the breakfast to learn.
"I want my boys to know about MLK," he said, "To learn some of the sacrifices he made on their behalf."
He said that while society has made a great deal of progress, there is still room for improvement and that King's message is still relevant today.
"The message of love never gets old," he said.
Each year, the MLK Committee presents public service awards. This year's recipients were former City Councilmen Curt Olson, who died Oct. 23, 2012, and Jerry Patterson, who died on Nov. 11, 2012.
Scott Walker, of Fort Dodge, spoke about Olson
"Curt was a doer," he said. "Curt just did and did and did."
Olson's award was accepted by his son, Curtis Olson.
"My father would just have said thank you." Olson said.
Patterson's award will be presented later to his family.
Clayton shared how Patterson had helped him in his own life starting with a YMCA membership, then help with college and jobs.
"I wouldn't be standing here today if it wasn't for Jerry," he said.