Bastardizing the Dream: Alveda King

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This is the week set aside in honor of one our own, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Normally a time for celebration, I have come to dread our annual commemoration because of photo-op’s like the one above with Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee. Dr. King’s niece, Alveda King, has fallen off the mountaintop, bumped her damn head, and become a member of the vast right-wing conspiracy.

 

Employed full-time by the religious right, she is an aggressive pro-life activist, minister, and professional public speaker. As she has moved steadily to the right, Alveda has provided political cover and given full license to those who would distort, defame, and destroy the dream of her late Uncle in the name of a fictitious colorblindness that is really white supremacy.

 

A long time opponent of Affirmative Action, she is entangled in a network of right-wing preachers hell bent on destroying the progressive social change that Dr. King fought for. While Dr. King spoke of the power of love and the creation of the beloved community, the glue that holds their little movement together is hatred, homophobia and a fixation with stopping same sex couples who love each other from having the right to marry.

 

In the month of Mrs. King’s death, Alveda participated in “Justice Sunday,” a wingnut gala consisting of the full constellation of reactionary politicians and their talabangelical brethren dedicated to fighting for the confirmation of Bush’s judicial nominees like Samuel Alito. Alito, an archconservative with a history of hostility to civil rights, provided the fifth vote to strike down voluntary Affirmative Action plans in the public schools last year. Weakening the legacy of Brown v. Board of Education without the guts to admit it, Alito and his allies on the court dealt the principle of ending separate but equal education a mortal wound.

 

Among those beating the drums of fascist religiosity with Alveda were Justice Sunday colleagues Tony Perkins, Head of the right-wing Family Research Council and a former Louisiana politician who paid white supremacist and neo-Nazi David Duke for his mailing list, and Jerry Falwell, a former segregationist who smeared Martin Luther King, Jr. as a tool of communists.

During most of Dubya’s first term, he found some way to paw Coretta Scott King in a manner that made my blood boil. Born on the same day as my grandmother two years apart, Mrs. King was always an icon in my household. I would NEVER allow George W. Bush to put his damn hands on my grandmother and I could never understand why Mrs. King visited the White House of a man who stole the Presidency. Her graciousness was always taken advantage of by this White House and she invariably became a colored prop in Dubya’s annual racist stage play of deceit every third Monday in January.

 

My personal favorite was the 2003 King Holiday. Within days of the holiday, the Administration announced a bold frontal assault on Affirmative Action by filing a brief against the Affirmative Action Admissions programs for both the University of Michigan and its School of Law. Writing a powerful Five-to-Four opinion upholding the principle of Affirmative Action, Sandra Day O’Connor ended her twenty years of steady opposition to Affirmative Action programs. Within two years, she resigned from the court only to be replaced by Alveda’s choice, Samuel Alito. It is only a matter of time now before Affirmative Action is destroyed by the Roberts Court.

 

Monday, I kept hearing reports of Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee being invited to attend King Day services at Ebenezer Baptist Church by a member of “the King Family.” While not identified, I have a hunch that the black fool in question was Alveda. She was the one sitting next to the presidential contender that told White South Carolina Republicans that they shouldn’t tolerate anybody dictating to them about where, when and how to fly the confederate flag. After desecrating the sanctuary with his presence, Huckabee used the occasion to accept the endorsement of a group of black wingnut preachers, the “Coalition of African American Pastors,” a group Alveda has claimed a board membership of on her website.

 

 

This week, Martin Luther King III, “deeply” concerned about politicians misappropriating the legacy of his father, wrote John Edwards a beautiful letter telling him to keep fighting and stay in the race. If he was truly concerned about folks distorting the dream, he would have stopped his Mama from being used by George W. Bush, stopped his sister Bernice from demonizing gays and lesbians, put his foot down to permit the man who paid for his Daddy’s funeral, Harry Belafonte, to eulogize his mother instead of the ignorant patrician in the White House, and done something to put his cousin Alveda in check.

 

As adherents of the drum major for justice who preached non-violence, it would be unseemly for the members of the King family to take Alveda aside and beat her ass until she remembers what the hell the dream is really about. Nevertheless, let me be the first one to say to the King family that all of black America would happily forgive y’all if you laid down the principles of non-violence temporarily to “lay hands” on Alveda with “the love of the Lord.”

 

I won’t tell nobody and I am quite sure that Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin, a King family friend, would help. After all, she has kept her girls outta jail, despite the mess they’ve been involved in, and I’m very sure a discrete word from the mayor to the Po-po would squash it. If Shirley can’t help, somebody can always call Bishop Thomas Weeks, Juanita Bynum’s soon-to-be ex-husband. The way I see it he’ll pop either the question, Alveda, or both.

 

Although I can’t help but lampoon Alveda and make light of this situation for the sake of my fragile sanity, bastardizing Dr. King’s dream is no laughing matter.

Mychal Bell’s bail set at $45,000

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Hat Tip: (CNN) — Bail was being posted Thursday for Mychal Bell, a black teenager accused of beating a white classmate, after a district attorney’s announcement that he would not appeal a higher court’s decision moving Bell’s case to juvenile court, according to the Rev. Al Sharpton.

Mychal Bell, 17, is accused with five others of beating Justin Barker in a school fight.

Bell’s bail was set at $45,000, Sharpton said. The paperwork was being worked out, he said, and the bail bondsman was at the courthouse.

Earlier Thursday, Bell was moved from jail to a juvenile facility, according to his attorney, Lewis Scott.

LaSalle Parish District Attorney Reed Walters said his decision not to appeal was based on what he believed is best for the victim in the case.

“While I believe that a review would have merit … I believe it is in the best interest of the victim and his family not to delay this matter any further and move it to its conclusion,” Walters told reporters. Video Watch the district attorney say he won’t challenge the ruling. »

He said a march by 15,000 people last week in the small town of 3,000 residents led by civil rights leaders Sharpton and Martin Luther King III did not influence his decision.

Demonstrators were protesting how authorities handled the cases of Bell and five other teens accused of beating fellow student Justin Barker.

Many said they are angry that the students, dubbed the “Jena 6,” are being treated more harshly than three white students who hung nooses from an oak tree on high school property.

The white students were suspended from school but did not face criminal charges. The protesters say they should have been charged with a hate crime.

Bell, now 17, was the only one of the Jena 6 behind bars. His bond previously was set at $90,000.

A district judge earlier this month tossed out Bell’s conviction for conspiracy to commit second-degree battery, saying the matter should have been handled in juvenile court. The 3rd Circuit Court of Appeal in Lake Charles, Louisiana, did the same with Bell’s battery conviction in mid-September.

Prosecutors originally charged all six black students accused of being involved in beating Barker with second-degree attempted murder and conspiracy. Walters reduced charges against at least four of them — Bell, Robert Bailey Jr., Carwin Jones and Theo Shaw — to battery and conspiracy.

Bryant Purvis awaits arraignment. Charges against Jesse Ray Beard, who was 14 at the time of the alleged crime, are unavailable because he’s a juvenile.

Wednesday, Gov. Kathleen Blanco announced that Louisiana State Police officers will protect the families of the Jena 6 and investigate any threats they have received. A white supremacist Web site posted the names and addresses of the six black teens after last week’s march, calling on followers to “let them know justice is coming.”

Thursday, the FBI said it has been made aware of allegations of threats.

“Threats are taken seriously, and as these investigations are ongoing we cannot comment further,” said Sheila Thorne of the FBI’s New Orleans, Louisiana, office.

The December 4 attack on Barker came after months of racial tension, including at least two instances of fighting in the town, sparked originally when three white teens hung nooses from an oak tree on the town’s high school grounds.

Walters has said there was no direct link between the hanging of the nooses and the schoolyard attack, and defended the prosecutions ahead of last Thursday’s peaceful march. Blanco defended the prosecutor Wednesday, saying, “He has a solid record and is highly respected among his peers.”

Walters also addressed the stress and notoriety the town has been subjected to, saying the only way he and other residents “have been able to endure the trauma that has been thrust upon us is through the prayers of the Christian people who have sent them up in this community.”

He also suggested that some kind of “disaster” was averted when thousands of marchers came to Jena last week.

“I firmly believe and am confident of the fact that had it not been for the direct intervention of the Lord Jesus Christ last Thursday, a disaster would have happened,” Walters said.

“The Lord Jesus Christ put his influence on those people and they responded accordingly,” he said, without explaining exactly what he meant.

Soon after the district attorney spoke, a local reverend took issue with his comments.

Obviously, we are serving two different gods here,” the Rev. Donald Sidley said. “My Bible says that we should do — we should be loving, love your neighbor as yourself.

“For him to try and separate the community like he is and then using Christ Jesus to influence the people that Jesus is working on their side, well, that’s — that’s absurd. … God is god of the human race,” said Sidley, of the New Evergreen Church.

Jena 6 DA yields to pressure from Governor

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 Hat Tip: Doug Simpson, Associated Press

Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco said Wednesday that the prosecutor in one of the so-called “Jena 6″ cases has decided not to challenge an appellate ruling that sends the case to juvenile court.

LaSalle Parish District Attorney Reed Walters had earlier said he would appeal the state appeals court’s decision that 17-year-old Mychal Bell’s second-degree battery conviction be set aside. The court ruled that Bell could not be tried as an adult.

Blanco said she had spoken with Walters and asked him to reconsider pushing to keep the case in the adult courts system. She said Walters contacted her Wednesday to say he had decided not to appeal the ruling.

“I want to thank him for this decision he has made,” Blanco said.

Bell, who remains behind bars, was one of six Jena High School teens arrested after a December attack on a white student, Justin Barker. Five of the six teens initially were charged with attempted second-degree murder, though charges for four of them, including Bell, were later reduced. One teen hasn’t been arraigned, and the case of the sixth, handled as a juvenile, is sealed.

Blanco made her announcement at a news conference with activists Martin Luther King III and the Rev. Al Sharpton. Sharpton said he hopes a bond will be set low enough to allow for Bell’s release, and he thanked Blanco for getting involved in the matter.

“I want to congratulate her for showing leadership,” Sharpton said. “And I want to congratulate the district attorney for good judgment.”

Blanco said Walters gave her permission to announce his decision, and that he planned to discuss his decision publicly on Thursday. A phone call placed at Walters’ home went unanswered Wednesday.

The case brought more than 20,000 protesters to the central Louisiana town of Jena last week in a marched that harkened back to the demonstrations of the 1950s and ’60s.

Critics accuse local officials of prosecuting blacks more harshly than whites. They note that no charges were filed against three white teens suspended from the high school for allegedly hanging nooses in a tree on campus — an incident that was followed by fights between blacks and whites, including the attack on Barker.

Walters has condemned the noose incident — calling it “abhorrent and stupid” in a New York Times op-ed piece Thursday — but said the act broke no Louisiana law.

In the article, Walters defended the aggravated second-degree battery counts most of those charged in the attack on Barker now face. He said Barker was “blindsided,” knocked unconscious and kicked by at least six people, and would have faced “severe injury or death” had another student not intervened.

Atlanta pays tribute to Yolanda King

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 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
 

A procession of family and friends paid tribute Thursday to Yolanda King during a memorial service for the the oldest child of Martin Luther King Jr., and Coretta Scott King,

The noon service, scheduled to conclude at 2:30 p.m., stretched beyond fours hours as testimonies came from those who knew King as a relative, actress, classmate, and daughter of the civil rights movement.

Among the high profile mourners seated in the front pews at Ebenezer Baptist Church were, U.S. Rep. John Lewis, (D-Atlanta); the Rev. Al Sharpton, civil rights activist and talk show host; activist Dick Gregory; Attallah Shabazz, the daughter of slain civil rights leader Malcolm X and a long-time King friend; SCLC President Charles Steele; the Rev. C.T. Vivian; Juanita Abernathy, widow of the Rev. Ralph Abernathy; gospel singer Dottie Peoples; the Rev. Byron Cage and long-time King family friend Xernona Clayton.

Huge video monitors on either side of the pulpit broadcast the service as it unfolded. In the center of the pulpit, ringed with lush ferns, was a 4 foot photograph of King. In it she beamed her bright signature smile. The picture was nestled in a nest of lavender tulle and flanked on either side with sprays of peach flowers.

On the dais sat former Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young; Elisabeth Omilami, daughter of King aide Hosea Williams; and Ebenezer Pastor Raphael Warnock.

At 12:29, the surviving King children filed into the sanctuary. Bernice King was first, followed by Martin King III and finally Dexter. They were accompanied by their aunt Christine King Farris; their cousin Isaac Newton Farris Jr., president and CEO of the King Center; and Bishop Eddie Long, pastor of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church.

As the service continued, Yolanda King’s cousins – the Rev. Toussaint King Hill, pastor of West Hunter Street Baptist Church and Vernon King, pastor of St. James Baptist Church in Greensboro, N.C. – read Scriptures, as the mourners shouted “Yes.”

Coca-Cola executive Ingrid Saunders Jones read a remembrance from Maya Angelou that bore Angelou’s poetic flourish. The elderly poet, who was originally slated to participate in the service, was unable to attend.

“Yolanda proved daily how it was possible to smile while wreathed in sadness,” Angelou’s statement read. She was a daughter who was “an inheritor of a national nightmare.”

Actress Cicely Tyson offered a dramatic reading of a poem urging King’s friends and loved ones not to grieve. “Do not stand by my grave and weep. For I am not there. I do not sleep. I am a thousand winds that blow. I am the diamonds glinting on snow.”

Juandalynn R. Abernathy, the daughter of Ralph David and Juanita Abernathy, called King her oldest friend – meeting each other in the crib.

“I thought we would grow old together,” Abernathy said.

She spoke as though reading from a letter directly addressed to “Yoki,” Martin Luther King’s nickname for his eldest daughter. In it Abernathy recounted their days growing up together, from writing family plays in which their siblings were the stars, to collecting turtles.

The hours following Martin Luther King’s assassination were filled with tearful phone calls between the two teens. “Our friendship sustains me even today Yoki, How can I saw farewell? When we picked up the phone, it was like we picked up the conversation of those two little girls that played together.

“Our fathers took us to see “To Sir With Love.” Remember Daddy and uncle Martin went to sleep and snored through the whole movie? Those were the good old times.”

After her letter to her friend, Abernathy, a classical singer, who lives in Germany, sang a verse of “I Do Not Know How Long it Would Be.”

Elisabeth Omilami, who is also an actress, followed with a theatrical tribute also documenting their decades long friendship.

As mourners filed in, they received a 45-page program for the service. It was filled with photographs of King during happy times, documenting her journey from newborn in the arms of her parents, to her final years as an actress and director of her own production company, Higher Ground Productions.

The photographs show the access the eldest King child had to so many different worlds. In one photo she smiles with Oprah Winfrey, in another she grins with singer Stephanie Mills, in yet another she’s in conversation with President Bill Clinton. In one photo she sits next to the grandson of the man who inspired her father’s commitment to non-violent change, Mahatma Ghandi.

The program also contains acknowledgements from President George W. Bush, Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, and mayors Shirley Franklin (Atlanta) and Antonio Villaraigosa (Los Angeles).

In a tribute to her career as an actress, the program was divided into acts representing the stages of King’s life. On the final page is a sepia-toned family portrait of all the King children as adults surrounding their mother.

Acts Two and Three of the service featured tributes from Yolanda King’s friends from Grady High School, Smith College and her years as an actress in New York. The service, originally scheduled to conclude at 2:30 p.m., was only about half through at 2 p.m.

Those in attendance included Mayor Franklin, Atlanta Police Chief Richard Pennington and Joseph Lowery, former head of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

Lowery, walking to the sanctuary, predicted it would be a painful day for the King family, with the death of Yolanda so quickly after the death of her mother, Coretta Scott King, last year.

“These kids have been through the storm, they have weathered the storm, and they will survive,” said Lowery.

On the long line stretching outside the church, Lowery said, “This is the first family of black America, coming a year after her mother’s death people’s hearts are touched.”

Civil-rights leader the Rev. Al Sharpton came to the service accompanied by two unidentified daughters of the late R&B legend, James Brown. “She was the first daughter of the civil rights movement,” Sharpton said of Yolanda King. “The Kings’ sacrifice was a family affair. That’s why we owe it to the family to be here.”

Syndicated columnist Barbara Reynolds, who’s writing a biography of Coretta Scott King, said she met with Yolanda King four days before her death to discuss her book proposal. She said King approved her proposal and helped outline some parameters for the book. “If she had not given me her instructions, it would have been impossible,” Reynolds said.

Reynolds said King said she was feeling tired. “I had no idea she had a heart issue.”

Anthony Holden, 50, Decatur, like most, said he was shocked when hearing of the death. “She’s part of our past. If it wasn’t for her family I wouldn’t be able to do what I do today,” Holden said.

Rev. Mike Jones, of Atlanta, a high school classmate of Yolanda King at Grady High School, remembered her as fun, energetic and a leader. “You could tell she had the spirit of her father,” he said. “She was relaxed and fun-loving, those were the fun days.”

He said the death of a classmate brought “a realization that we are all getting older and let’s enjoy each day.”

Cynthia Collins, 50, Snellville, brought her son, Jackson, 9, a student at Hopewell Christian Academy, to the memorial service. She said they frequently go to the King Center and attended Coretta Scott King’s funeral service. “[My son has] got it easy right now. People had to struggle so he can do what he is doing today,” Collins said.

She said she has a picture with Yolanda in 2006 at a book signing in Atlanta. The news of her death came as a shock. “I was driving down the highway and almost came to a complete stop when I heard it on the radio,” she said.

Jessica Bass, 22, of Stanford, Conn., said her parents knew Yolanda and the King family. “I was in this very place not even a year ago for her mother’s death. She’s loved and definitely will be missed,” Bass said.

Used art to further message

Yolanda King, the oldest of Martin Luther King Jr., and Coretta Scott King’s four children, died May 15 in Santa Monica, Calif. She had lived in California, most recently Culver City, for more than a decade. A private autopsy was done, but family members say that she died of heart failure.

The 51-year-old was known to have an irregular heartbeat.

As noted by her cousin Isaac Newton Farris Jr., out of all of the King children, Yolanda was the most artistic. In fact, it was her art and love for acting and performing that attracted her to California.

She appeared in several movies, throughout her career. Often small roles in civil rights themed movies. She played Rosa Parks in “King,” the television biography about her father.

In 1996, she portrayed Reena Evers, the daughter of assassinated civil rights leader Medgar Evers, in “Ghosts of Mississippi.” When roles became scarce, she started her own production company, Higher Ground Productions. With that as a base, she put on plays and toured the country as a motivational speaker.

Nicknamed “Yoki” by her father, she was also active in social causes. Most recently, after the death of her mother – who had suffered a stroke – she became the first National Ambassador for the American Stroke Association’s Power to End Stroke campaign.

On May 6, she spoke at Ebenezer Baptist Church, about the importance of African-Americans taking care of their health.

Yolanda Denise King was born Nov. 17, 1955, in Montgomery, Ala,, a few weeks before the start of the Montgomery bus boycott. Her life paralleled the civil right’s movement, When she was barely 6 weeks old, while her father was speaking at a Montgomery church, a bomb blew the porch off their home. She and her mother barely escaped injury.

Yolanda King graduated from Smith College in 1976 and received a master’s degree in fine arts from New York University in 1979.

She is survived by two brothers, Martin Luther King III and Dexter Scott King, and one sister, Bernice King.