Sunday, February 7, 2010

Coretta King

By Dr. Barbara Reynolds

Four years have passed since the death of Coretta Scott King on January 30, 2006.
What greater time than now to commemorate her legacy by naming schools, federal and state office buildings and highways after her. King’s activism before, during and after the death of her husband, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. helped transform this nation, an accomplishment too important to be marginalized or forgotten.
In taped interviews over a two-year period to complete a biography, Mrs. King often emphasized that she was much more than just the wife or the widow of her husband. “I was an activist when I met him. I was a partner with him in the movement and I remained an activist after Martin was gone. I was married to the man I loved, but I was also married to the cause which helped me to go on without him.”
Here is a woman whose life is a stand- alone heroic epic. As a young girl she sometimes worked in the piercing hot sun of Alabama as a hired-hand picking cotton for two dollars a week, but rose in prominence to help pick presidents, mayors, and congressional leaders.
Mrs. King grew to womanhood in the 40’s when it was unacceptable for women to further their dreams outside the confines of their homes. Yet, she proved that a woman could become a housewife, raise four children and still become a co-partner on a violent battlefield with her husband in one of the world’s greatest human rights movement.
As a student at Antioch College, she became involved in the peace movement. “Before I ever met Martin in 1952 I was involved in politics. I did not become an activist after Martin’s death, as some might think. I was an activist when I met him.
Before she married King, she had to learn to live with fear. As a teenager, whites home burned down her family. Once married, threats were constant and sometimes real. She was at home with her infant daughter, Yolanda, when her house was bombed during the 1956 Montgomery Bus Boycott. “The bombing helped me to face fear and understand my faith in God was stronger than my fears.”
After Martin’s assassination, she said: “I had to fight back the tears and find the strength within to perpetuate Martin’s legacy by keeping the Dream alive. “We did that through the creation of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Non-violent Social Change, which I envisioned as the West Point of non-violence. We created non-violent training programs that are still being conducted around the world. We promoted a national holiday as a model for commemorating Martin’s sacrifice and service for others to follow. Wherever there was injustice--war, discrimination against women, gays, and the disadvantaged-- I did my best to show up and exert moral persuasion for what is right.
Mrs. King said, “We spurred redevelopment in Atlanta, creating the diversity that helped attract the 1996 Summer Olympics and the Center continues to attract visitors from around the world, which brings in million to Atlanta through tourism.”
So far, Atlanta has not named any major buildings or highways after Mrs. King. This special recognition has been bestowed on many other movement leaders, such as the late Ralph D. Abernathy and former United Nations Ambassador Andrew Young, both of whom were top King aides.
This shortcoming bothers loyalists, such as Steve Klein, the King Center’s Communications Director. “After all she did for the nation, especially Atlanta, it is surprisingly that so little has been done in her honor. A charter school named after her is about it. She took a deteriorating community, vacant lots and blight and through her work there is a King Complex, with a federal park, the King birth home, the gravesites where both Kings are entombed, all of which has become a spiritual Mecca.”
Dr. King once said of Coretta, “No matter where I am if she is not with me she is only a heartbeat away.” Yet, no matter who stood beside Dr. King, he would overshadow them in life as well as death. Nevertheless Mrs. King must not be allowed to recede in the shadows of history. She once told me, “My story is a freedom song, of struggle. It about finding one’s purpose, how to overcome fear and to stand up for causes bigger than one’s self.”
Mrs. King’s story must be writ large. If we fail to do so, a respect for process, perspective and posterity will suffer.
Journalism necessity requires shorthand. To say she built a Center and spoke out for injustice requires only a few words. It sounds easy, however, it was not. Somehow we must take the time to dig into the details of how many years all that took, how many tears were shed in the process.
Moreover, it is difficult to communicate to a younger generation how the nation moved from people being killed for trying to exercise their voting rights to the election of the first black president without studying the life of activists like Mrs. King who aided in the transformation.
Mrs. King worked tirelessly to preserve her husband’s legacy, which in the end became her farewell gift to the nation as well... It seems only right to commemorate both Kings because they were two souls with one goal. And they served our country well.

Dr. Barbara Reynolds is an ordained minister and author of five books, one of which is entitled No I Won’t Shut Up for which Mrs. King wrote the foreword.

Monday, January 18, 2010


Dr. Barbara Reynolds

As President Barack Obama directs aircraft carriers and transport planes jammed with food, medicine and as physicians, relief workers and journalists risk their lives to help beleaguered Haitians, the callous, venomous statements of Rush Limbaugh and Rev. Pat Robertson show how irrelevant the GOP has become.
With gifts to the American Red Cross totaling about $35 million in the first 48 hours of the disaster, U.S. citizens text-messaging millions, school children chipping in their spending change and CNN showing the tragedy to the world, the ugly words coming from the Republicans have me saying “Thank God America is not like them. Not anymore.”
At a time when tens of thousands of Haitians were buried under concrete, the best Limbaugh could muster was a twisted political statement about how the president was offering humanitarian aid to “build credibility with both the light-skinned and dark-skinned black community in this country.” Then he said it was doubtful that “money being donated to Haiti through the White House Web site would actually go to the relief efforts,” suggesting that the Administration would use this money for their own special interests.
If that were not enough televangelist Robertson, who once ran for President on the Republican ticket, said on his 700 Club TV show that Haiti’s troubles came from their leadership making a pact with the devil some two hundred years ago.
Every Republican who still has any semblance of decency ought to be storming the airwaves denouncing Rush Limbaugh, the mouthpiece of the GOP. Limbaugh has become so zealous and frothy in his crusade to smear President Barack Obama that he has become the symbol of a lunatic.
How can Republicans put up with this kind of callous political venom? Why aren’t their leaders denouncing Limbaugh and Robertson? Is it because the GOP is so intent of making our president fail, as Limbaugh has decreed, that they will twist every presidential act, no matter how noble, to satisfy their own pathetic objectives?
Where, for example, is RNC chairman Michael Steele? If there is any hope for the GOP to be anything but a Gross Old Party, he should be out front putting Limbaugh in his place. But the last time Steele corrected Limbaugh, it was Steele who later cowed in a corner backtracking on his statements.
By allowing the GOP to be painted as “haters,” without a challenge from the top, the party has segregated itself into a corner reserved for the greedy, the blamers and the spoilers, a place few people of good will want to reside.
The GOP led by bombastic Limbaugh and silent Steele is what crazy looks like. The Democrats led by Obama is what goodwill feels like.
The ability to look at human suffering and make judgments only based on skin color is what we saw during the Katrina Hurricane under President George Bush. We saw U.S. citizens—war veterans, school children, teachers, soccer coaches, grandmothers, some wrapped in the American flag—stranded on roof tops, sweltering on asphalt highways, knee-deep in rat infested waste shared with human bodies—while our government headed by George Bush relaxed at his Texas ranch. We recoiled as we saw the U.S. born black population of New Orleans, labeled as “refugees,” as justification for aid being slow to come.
We are not fooled by a party who allows Limbaugh, who has announced the failure of Obama as his mission, to be its mouthpiece and defacto HWPIC (white person in charge). Limbaugh stands for race hatred. In recent years, he, reportedly, told a black caller on his radio show to "Take that bone out of your nose and call me back," he asked his audience: "Have you ever noticed how all composite pictures of wanted criminals resemble Jesse Jackson?" Of civil rights groups, he said, "the NAACP should have riot rehearsal. They should get a liquor store and practice robberies." Recently he has enjoyed playing the song "Barack the Magic Negro" on the air.
It is not our president who is failing but Limbaugh who is failing as a human being. In addition it is Pat Robertson who should know the devil is not confined to Haiti—which incidentally is 80 per cent Christian-- when evil abounds everywhere.
In stating that Haitians made a pact with the devil, the GOP’S vicar is apparently referring to a Voodoo ceremony that in Haitian national mythology initiated the 1848 French revolution. In the ceremony, Haitian leader Boukman supposedly said: “The white man’s god asks him to commit crimes. But the god within us wants to do good. Our god, who is so good, so just, He orders us to revenge our wrongs. It’s He who will direct our arms and bring us the victory. It’s He who will assist us. We all should throw away the image of the white men’s god who is so pitiless. Listen to the voice for liberty that speaks in all our hearts.”
Most people reading these words see an oppressed people rejecting the God of their oppressors, just as black slaves once did in this country. In the minds of people like Robertson, however, those who reject the god who champions oppression must be devil-worshippers.
If the devil is running things as Robertson alleges he clearly has found many cohorts in the party of Limbaugh and Robertson.

Dr. Barbara Reynolds, an ordained minister, is an author of five books, including Out of Hell & Living Well, Healing From the Inside Out.