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Remembrance Of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Yolanda King Remembers Parents, Civil Rights Movement In Speech

Monday, January 21, 2008
Martin Luther King Jr
(CBS/AP) The eldest daughter of Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King evoked the civil rights movement while reminding those remembering her parents that America has not yet reached the promised land of peace and racial equality.

"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 said Sunday at Ebenezer Baptist Church during a presentation that was part motivational speech, part drama.

King, 51, spoke a day before Monday's celebration of the civil rights leader's birthday, the first since the death last year of Coretta Scott King. This year's holiday also comes on the day Martin Luther King, Jr. would have turned 78. King was assassinated while standing on the balcony of a hotel in Memphis, Tenn., on April 4, 1968. His confessed killer, James Earl Ray, was arrested two months later in London.

Yolanda King told The Associated Press the holiday provides an opportunity for everyone to live her father's dream, and that she has her mother's example to follow.

"I connected with her spirit so strongly," she 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."

The stage and television actress performed a series of scenes 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 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 posed for photographs with attendees.

On Monday, Ebenezer Baptist Church, where King preached from 1960 to 1968, was to be the venue for more remembrances and speeches. The keynote speaker was to be Dr. Otis Moss Sr., pastor of Olivet Institutional Baptist Church.

In West Columbia, S.C., several hundred people gathered Monday morning for a breakfast prayer service honoring King.

The Rev. Brenda Kneece, 45, executive minister of the South Carolina Christian Action Council, said King set the standard for sacrifice and vision.

"The vision became even more powerful because he understood the risks he was taking,'' Kneece said. "It's very important for our children to know that his sacrifice didn't win the war. We still have to keep at it."

In New York, rallies, speeches and volunteer efforts were to mark the King holiday, some invoking the Iraq War, the conflict in Sudan and local tensions surrounding the fatal police shooting of a black groom.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the Rev. Al Sharpton and Gov. Eliot Spitzer were expected to attend a forum, joining Nicole Paultre-Bell, whose fiance was killed by police in a barrage of 50 bullets in November.

The Rev. Herbert Daughtry, the national minister of the House of the Lord Churches, said he would lead an act of civil disobedience outside the Sudan Mission in New York.

In New York on Sunday, some politics mixed in with the King Day observances as Democratic presidential hopeful John Edwards addressed about 1,200 parishioners at Riverside Church, a multiracial, politically active Manhattan congregation where King delivered his famous "Beyond Vietnam" speech on April 4, 1967.

Edwards called on Americans to resist President Bush's planned troop escalation in Iraq, echoing King's plea 40 years ago to end the Vietnam War. Edwards spoke from the same wooden pulpit King used and was introduced by one of King's sons, Martin Luther King III.

New Yorkers also planned to volunteer on the holiday in a spirit of service, such as knitting blankets for babies born to mothers with HIV/AIDS, painting murals, building homes, revitalizing their community and making fleece scarves for the homeless.

Coretta Scott King died last year on Jan. 31 at age 78. An activist in her own right, she also fought to shape and preserve her husband's legacy after his death.

Shortly after his death, she founded what would become the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change. For years, she worked to establish Jan. 15 as a federal holiday, which became a reality in 1986.

"When you see the commitment my parents exhibited ... it was not for fame or fortune," Yolanda King said. "The best sermons are those that are lived."

In Boston, Gov. Deval Patrick - the first black governor of Massachusetts, who took office only a few days ago will be the keynote speaker at Monday's Martin Luther King Day ceremonies at Faneuil Hall, one of the nation's best known colonial landmarks, and at the United Union Methodist Church.

On Saturday, King's late widow was honored at the annual Salute to Greatness Dinner, a fundraiser for the King Center.

Another commemoration of Dr. King offers the public a chance to get a closer look at his ideas and writings.

Over 600 of his personal documents have been put on display, for the first time, in Atlanta.

The exhibit - which includes an early draft of his famed "I Have a Dream" speech in Washington in 1963 - is a glimpse at the collection of more than 10,000 King papers and books that Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin helped privately acquire for $32 million last summer from Sotheby's auction house.

The mayor pulled off the deal with the help of more than 50 corporate, government and private donors to give the papers to Atlanta's Morehouse College, where King graduated in 1948 with a bachelor's degree in sociology.

The Atlanta History Center, where the exhibit will be through May 13, is anticipating widespread interest of the papers. Until now, the collection has only been displayed at Sotheby's auction house in New York, both last summer and in 2003, in conjunction with the 40th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington, when King delivered his "Dream" speech about his hope that people of all races would be treated equally.

Sotheby's has called the collection "an unparalleled gathering of primary documents from Dr. King's most active years."

"The question is often asked, 'Where is the dream coming from?'" said Elizabeth Miller, who curated the Sotheby's exhibit and helped with the smaller Atlanta exhibit. "This exhibit shows the genesis and the struggle of that internal journey."

The "I have a Dream" speech

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