When a person exhibits personal growth, I think it is apropos to acknowledge it…especially if it is a public personailty and more importantly, if it is a public personality to whose ideas people give credence.
It is with that in mind that I present to you the new edition of Bernice King. Bernice is one of four children of Martin Luther King, Jr, the others being Yolanda Denise King (now deceased), Martin Luther King III, and Dexter Scott King.
As background, I would suggest reading John Blake's essay, What did MLK think about gay people?
Martin and Coretta's niece, Dr. Alveda King is well-known as being a anti-choice, anti-gay associate of Glenn Beck. Although she has had two abortions herself, she has made quite a life for herself as a pro-life advocate. And she has equated same-sex marriage with genocide.
It is statistically proven that the strongest institution that guarantees procreation and continuity of the generations is marriage between one man and one woman. We don't want genocide. We don't want to destroy the sacred institution of marriage.
--Alveda King at a NOM rally in Atlanta, August, 2010
Marty King had the following to say earlier this year at the dedication of the King monument.
But my father also supported human rights, freedom and self-determination for all people, including Latino agricultural workers, Native Americans, and the millions of impoverished white men and women who were treated as second-class citizens. Although he was assassinated before the women’s rights, gay rights and environmental movements reached the national stage, there is no question in my mind that my father would have viewed these struggles as battles for justice and equality worthy of his support.
Yolanda (Yoki) King, the now deceased oldest child of Martin and Coretta was the most adamantly in favor of gay rights of the King children.
"What led me to my concern and my involvement [in working toward gay rights equality] is the number of friends that I have that are gay and who have had so many struggles in their life because of it," Yolanda told me, adding that she believed that, were he still alive, her father would stand up, as had her mother, for the rights of gays.
"My father said it on numerous occasions, 'Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.'" If we exclude and discriminate against any group of people it affects us all, and it's really that simple. The civil rights movement that I believe in thrives on unity and inclusion, not division and exclusion."
Yoki always sounded so much like Coretta:
Speaking of the importance of civil rights for gay and lesbian people, Coretta Scott King said in March of 1998, “I still hear people say that I should not be talking about the rights of lesbian and gay people and I should stick to the issue of racial justice. … But I hasten to remind them that Martin Luther King Jr. said, ‘Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.’" Coretta Scott King supported a federal bill prohibiting anti-gay discrimination.
Coretta once said that everyone who believed in Martin's dream should
make room at the table of brother and sisterhood for lesbian and gay people
Dexter Scott King is currently Chairman, past-President and past-CEO of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change, Inc, positions which he assumed after the death of his mother.
So it was with some sense of betrayal, but not totally unexpected when Bernice King (Bunny) participated in anti-gay activity as an elder of Eddie Long's New Birth Missionary Baptist Church, marching against same-sex marriage and declaring, at a church meeting in New Zealand, that her father
did not take a bullet for same-sex marriage.
In October 2009, King was named the president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the organization founded by her father more than five decades ago. The fundamentalist minister and anti-gay activist became the first woman to lead the SCLC in its 52 year history. However, she "refused to officially take over" and resigned in January 2011, reported the AJC.
She also left Rev. Long's church after the his scandal. At the time, she noted that
I’m going to launch a ministry. I’m not calling it a church right now. What God is showing me doesn’t look like what people are accustomed to.
Monday Bernice King spoke at the annual MLK Day march and rally in Atlanta.
In a passionate, sermon-like speech about building unity, King said she didn't care if people were Hindu, Buddhist, Islamist, were from the North side or the South side, were black or white, were “heterosexual or homosexual, or gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender” — that all people were needed to create unity.
LGBT people who attended the rally said they were shocked that King – who has a long anti-gay past — actually acknowledged the community in a public speech, but said they were also glad because it shows people can evolve.
LGBT supporters in the crowd were shocked.
There's always room for growth. People grow and people change. Sometimes we don't let them. I wasn't expecting that. And I was already ready to shut down but I challenged myself to listen and I'm glad I listened.
--Rev. Maressa Pendermon, Unity Fellowship Church, who had initially intended to tune Bernice out, based on her past utterances
It reminded me that people can and do shift attitudes. They do evolve. What Bernice’s turnabout ...spoke to is potential to change. We still have to remember they too are human.
I was like, 'What?' I clutched pearls. I sure did. I was not prepared to applaud Bernice King today and she gave me something to applaud.
--Craig Washington, founder of the Bayard Rustin/Audre Lorde breakfast
I thought it was great. First time I've ever heard her say lesbian, gay, bi and trans out loud. She said homosexual at first and then corrected herself. It takes a lot of grace to do something like that when you're on a roll.
Whether King was sincere and genuine with her words remains to be seen.
I feel like in coming years that will be telling what she said was genuine. I hope so,
--Paulina Helm-Hernandez (LGBT honorary grand marshall of the march and rally
I believe her attitude change was a necessary step toward her becoming the new CEO of The King Center, replacing her brother Marty. Dexter will remain Chairman of the Board. Marty recently resigned as President of The King Center to continue its shake-up. He will remain a member of the board.