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MONDAY, JANUARY 15, 2007
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King’s daughter: Equality goal not reached

By Errin Haines
Associated Press Writer

ATLANTA — Combining her love of acting with her passion for social justice, the eldest daughter of Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King evoked the civil rights movement on Sunday while reminding those remembering her parents on her father’s birthday that America has not yet reached the promised land of peace and racial equality.

Yolanda King urged an audience at Ebenezer Baptist Church to be a force for peace and love in the world, and to use the King holiday 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 said at the end of an hourlong presentation that was part motivational speech, part drama.

After the performance —which was attended by members of the extended King family and her 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.

Holiday without mother

Yolanda King told The Associated Press 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 on Jan. 31, 2006, at age 78 of complications from ovarian cancer after suffering a stroke five months earlier. Martin Luther King Jr. would have been 78 on Monday.

The civil rights matriarch, commonly referred to as King’s widow, has been lauded in the past week as an activist in her own right. Coretta Scott King 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, Coretta Scott King was honored at the annual Salute to Greatness Dinner, the annual fundraiser for the King Center.

Yolanda King was the mistress of 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 Martin Luther King’s birthday at his tomb and at Ebenezer Baptist Church, where King preached from 1960 to 1968.

Last week, a wreath was laid at the crypt that now houses the civil rights couple, and the service at Ebenezer will continue, led by Christine King Farris, Martin Luther King Jr.’s older sister.

Yolanda King said she continues to be inspired by her parents’ genuine dedication to the movement, apparent in a series of skits she acted out Sunday, including a young Montgomery girl’s first ride on a desegregated bus, a college student’s recollection of the 1963 desegregation of Birmingham and a young Mississippi woman’s fight to continue to Poor People’s Campaign, Martin Luther King Jr.’s last project before he was assassinated.

“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.”

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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