A quote from the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. drove the conversation Sunday night inside Beulah Baptist Institutional Church, just off West Cypress Street.
"Life's most persistent and urgent question is, 'What are you doing for others,'" King said in an August 1957 speech.
During a program entitled America's Sunday Supper, hosted by Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., a group of panelist gave honest answers about what local communities, specifically black communities, are doing for those in need.
This is the second year the program has taken place in Tampa. It is part of a national event emphasizing serving the community to honor King and the national holiday set aside for him in 1986. This year's focus is on empowering people and military veterans economically.
"Dr. King's whole concept was that we have a purpose on earth and that's service," said Carolyn House Stewart, Esq., International President of Alpha Kappa Alpha. "It's not just the TOBA (Tampa Organization for Black Affairs) Breakfast or the Martin Luther King parade. It's living service everyday and as a national service organization, that's what we do."
Nationally, the organization participated in more than 1.2 million volunteer hours and donated more than $4 million to help at least 12 million people last year, Stewart said.
In its focus to help veterans and their families, six large boxes were set up inside the church's lobby for goods to be donated.
More than 200 people attended the event at the church once pastured by King's former college professor, Rev. A. Leon Lowry, at Morehouse College in Atlanta.
One question asked of a panel comprised of seven people from Tampa, St. Petersburg, Sarasota and Winter Haven was how can those attending the program better serve veterans and their communities economically?
Everyone agreed education was the best way to make that possible.
"We've got to come collectively together to transform the very fabric of our communities," Deric Feacher, newly elected City Manager of Winter Haven said. "If we don't do that, we'll continue to see young men going to prison bars and not college halls."
Brian Lamb, president and CEO of Fifth Third Bank said that plan must be well mapped and adhered to. People must also track their progress regularly.
"That will help you be honest with yourself," he said.
As the night's event began, Wanda King, program director and member of Alpha Kappa Alpha, read a portion of a proclamation from President Barack Obama regarding the King holiday.
"In keeping with Dr. King's example, we embrace the belief that our destiny is shared," it read. "Accept our obligations to each other and to future generations and strengthen the bonds that hold together the most diverse nation on earth."