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.

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.

Ken Blackwell and Vernon Robinson: Black Stormtroopers for the Religious Right

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Lost in the white fantasy world of right-wing extremism, Ken Blackwell and Vernon Robinson are the this year’s dynamic duo of wingnuttery.  These black stormtroopers for the religious right defy all logic and reason and teeter dangerously on the edge of insanity.Obsessed with homosexuality and same-sex marriage, they have left no stone unturned in their ruthless and bigoted culture war against gay people, the most pressing issue on their narrow little their minds. 

There is a so-called war on terror, high unemployment, crumbling schools, deteriorating housing and health care opportunities to be worried about for black families and all these two can be worried about is gay folk, as if they can escaped somehow.

There is a genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan that has claimed the lives of nearly 450,000 Sudanese, most of whom are Christians since 2003.  The Bush Administration and its number one black foreign minstrel, Condoleezza Rice hasn’t done anything concrete to stop the killing. Isn’t that slightly more important than the “menace” of same-sex marriage?

Two million Africans died from HIV last year. They were killed by the indifference of the Industrialized World that has promised much and done little to stem the tide of disease and death.  HIV is on pace to wipe out entire generations of people in sub Saharan Africa if it is not stopped.  How many black lives and black families need to be destroyed in Africa and America before we realize that we need to be concerned with something other than the hateful scapegoating of gay people. Socially ostracizing gay people and preaching hate against gays and lesbians will not ever solve the problems in the black community.

The virus of theocratic fascism has infiltrated the black church and is driving a wedge between black people of faith and the black political leadership empowered by the black church during the civil rights era.  Before there was a Jesse Jackson there was Rev. Adam Clayton Powell, Jr.  He was Black America’s most famous preacher-politician.  Elected as one of only two black members of congress in the forties, Adam Clayton Powell became Black America’s charismatic prince melding the philosophical influences of the black church into his politics for the social, political, and economic uplift of black people.  He attacked Jim Crow segregation  inside and outside the halls of congress with legislation and boycotts.  Into this tradition of leadership came Martin Luther King, Andrew Young, John Lewis, Jesse Jackson, Bill Gray and others.    They risked their lives marching to create the reality of today.  This is the tradition Ken Blackwell, Vernon Robinson and their jack-booted fellow travelers ignore and desecrate at the peril of the black community.

Ken Blackwell and Vernon Robinson are enabled by a tight and growing network of black religious conservatives caught up in the ideological cul de sac of homophobia and republican politics. Some of the leading lights of black reaction are:  Bishop Harry Jackson, of the High Impact Coalition, Dr. Martin Luther King’s niece, Alveda King, Dr. King’s daughter, Rev. Bernice King and her pastor, Bishop Eddie Long.  Jackson, Long and Alveda King have all endorsed or participated in GOP campaigns or causes.

Ken Blackwell, Ohio’s Secretary of State is attempting to make the jump into the Governor’s mansion on the back of a thundering wave of right wing hysteria and reaction. He has sought and won the support of the most vociferous proponents of scorched earth conservatism and white supremacy. His previous service enabling Bush to steal the last Presidential election in Ohio is supposed to recommend him to the far-right but those loyal right-wing rubes are leaving him in droves this year.

The huge GOP scandals in Ohio this year have virtually destroyed Republican chances statewide if a fair vote without the interference of fixed Diebold machines is allowed to be held.  As many have pointed out, Bush and his GOP don’t like black people and tickets led by them usually lose as they become entangled in suffocating webs of of wingnuttery.  This year is no different, but the prominence of these black conservatives serves as a direct challenge to the democratic party to put forward more black and brown candidates for statewide offices that people of color usually shy away from.

Vernon Robinson, a former Winston-Salem, NC alderman, is just an unfathomable lunatic that is in dire need of psychiatric help.  Born into the middle class, the son of a Tuskegee Airman, he has absolutely no excuse for his far right extremism and white supremacist worship.   Yes, that is a picture of Vernon with Jesse-I-hate-blacks-and-gays-Helms.

A fascist firebrand, he specializes in shock politics and infammatory rhetoric that fixates on sex.  His political ads make Kerry Healey’s look subtle in comparison.  A frequent candidate for state and national office, he often loses but has raised millions from conservative knuckle draggers.

My favorite ad of the season is this one from the Robinson campaign which says it all