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Archive for Monday, January 15, 2007

Couple’s oldest daughter offers honorary performance

January 15, 2007

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— The oldest daughter of Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King combined her love of acting with her passion for social justice as she reminded those remembering her parents Sunday that America has not yet attained peace and racial equality.

Yolanda King urged an audience at Ebenezer Baptist Church - where her father preached for several years - to be a force for peace and love, and to use the King holiday today to ask tough questions about their own beliefs on prejudice.

"We must keep reaching across the table and, in the tradition of Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King, feed each other," Yolanda King, 51, said at the end of an hourlong presentation that was part motivational speech, part drama.

The stage and television actress performed a series of one-actor skits that told stories including a girl's first ride on a desegregated bus and a college student's recollection of the 1963 desegregation of Birmingham, Ala.

After the performance - attended by members of the extended King family and Yolanda's sister, the Rev. Bernice King - Yolanda King and her aunt, Christine King Farris, signed copies of their books, and Bernice King graciously posed for photographs with attendees.

Yolanda King said the King holiday provides an opportunity for everyone to live her father's dream, and that she has her mother's example to follow in her death.

"I connected with her spirit so strongly," Yolanda King said when asked how she is coping with her mother's loss. "I am in direct contact with her spirit, and that has given me so much peace and so much strength."

This year's King holiday activities were the first since the death of Coretta Scott King, who died Jan. 31, 2006, at age 78 of complications from ovarian cancer and after suffering a stroke five months earlier.

Often referred to as King's widow, Coretta Scott King has been lauded recently as an activist in her own right. She also fought to shape and preserve her husband's legacy after his assassination on April 4, 1968.

Shortly after his death, she founded what would become the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change. On Saturday, she was honored at the annual Salute to Greatness Dinner, a fundraiser for the King Center.

Yolanda King led ceremonies for the event, and the Kings' youngest child, Dexter, presented one of the awards to Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin for leading the effort to secure the 10,000-document Morehouse College Martin Luther King Jr. Collection - which Coretta Scott King amassed and kept in her home for decades.

For years, as she worked to establish Jan. 15 as a federal holiday, Coretta Scott King publicly celebrated her husband's birthday at his tomb and at Ebenezer Baptist, where King preached from 1960 to 1968. Last week, a wreath was laid at the couple's crypt, and the service at Ebenezer will continue, led by Christine King Farris, Martin Luther King Jr.'s older sister.

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