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Tribune News Service
Tribune News Service
Adrianne Murchison

King’s legacy depends on being a part of change, leaders say

ATLANTA — The youngest daughter of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. says his message of equality — while not easy to carry out — remains a mandate to take action, to save the future of all children and the world.

“We must move beyond the convenient King to the inconvenient King, if we are to save the world,” King Center CEO Rev. Bernice King said. “His words carried prophetic mandates...They make a demand on us, and (those words) are to our detriment and peril if we ignore them.”

She joined U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock, Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens and other leaders to celebrate the legacy of the late civil rights leader during the annual Beloved Community Commemorative Service Monday at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta.

During tributes, the leaders said continuing King’s legacy means concern for all humanity and resolving issues from health care to gun violence, immigration and climate change.

Bernice King criticized Congress saying some lawmakers praise the slain civil rights leader but “will not set aside politics” to help voting rights, end police brutality or address gun laws.

Warnock called for people to push for voting rights and said 600,000 Georgians are in need of health care.

“We are responsible for each other,” Dickens added. “King always said we are connected and tied to the same destiny. Whatever affects one affects all of us indirectly.”

During a passionate keynote speech, Bryan Stevenson, the executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama, said Dr. King’s dream can be fulfilled if America comes to a reckoning as well as a truth-telling with its past and present.

“King wanted us to reckon with our history,” he said. “We have to change the environment.”

Stevenson said a moral narrative was created to make sense of enslavement and the genocide of indigenous people.

“We cannot go on like this,” he said, of racial injustice and division. “We have to commit to a new era of truth and justice.”

The leaders asked people to get involved in their communities and government. Stevenson citing poverty and hate said, “You cannot honor King if you’re not willing to do something uncomfortable. We cannot stop where we are ... We’ve got to be willing to do uncomfortable things.”

This year marked the return of in-person attendance for the commemorative service. It was held virtually after the start of the pandemic in 2020. On Monday, the church sanctuary was already three-quarters full of people 90 minutes before the service began.

Lena Gilbert, 69, who attended the event in the past, said it was good to be back. She said she was 15-years-old when King was killed.

“I remember when he was assassinated, so all of it is real to me, and I just enjoy coming,” she said.

Sunday marked what would have been King’s 94th birthday.

Amber Campbell, 39, who attended the commemorative service with her 10-year-old daughter and 7-year-old son, said she agrees with the message of the holiday.

“I think as African Americans we need to be a bit more proactive with what we’re doing and more targeted in giving back to the communities,” Campbell said. “I think some of us are doing very well and we’ve had a lot of opportunities to decrease our poverty level.”

Campbell said she brought her children to the service to better expose them to King’s legacy.

“I think we need to carry that on and educate our children. A lot of my friends, we’re doing OK, but we are trying to get our children to be aware of the struggles that came before us ...”

Anne Wofford McKenzie, a resident of Atlanta for 57 years, said that America has progressed toward racial equality but more needs to done.

“I really think he would not be very pleased about racial injustice and all the killing that’s going on,” she said.


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