Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of inequality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”
On Feb. 12, the youngest daughter of Martin Luther King Jr., Dr. Bernice King, gave a lecture to an audience of around 1,900 people at Portland State’s Peter W. Stott Center in honor of Black History Month. At the event, King spoke of her family’s legacy and encouraged the audience’s participation in continuing to put into action her parents’ plans for equality in modern society.
“We want everyone to be a part of the community, so we have to find a way to bring them back over no matter how hard, no matter how difficult, no matter how challenging it might be,” King said.
Along with King’s speech, the event also included a musical performance by Linda Hornbuckle, a legendary soul singer who began singing at the age of 6 in Portland. Performances by Janice Scroggins and Hornbuckle’s old time gospel group were given as well.
A presidential welcome was given by PSU President Wim Wiewel. Senior community health major Michael Adams gave a student address.
In his speech, Wiewel reminded attendees of PSU’s community connection with the city.
“Part of what makes Portland State so special is our role here in the city, to be a convener for conversations that are important for our community,” Wiewel said.
Following Wiewel’s welcome, King began her lecture by reflecting on her life as a daughter of two historical American figures.
At the time of her father’s assassination, King was a 5-year-old observer of the revolution her father had put into place. Since then, she has obtained similar aspirations that her mother and father once pursued—achieving human equality around the world.
“I thank God for the honor and the privilege for being their daughter, which I don’t take lightly or for granted,” King said. “I only ask in this life that I live that people give me an opportunity to be our best self… Without question my father’s legacy is one of the most valued legacies of all time.”
As a fellow advocate for nonviolence, King noted that she supports her father’s choice to refrain from the use of weapons and violence to make his voice heard.
Currently the CEO of the King Center, which was founded by her mother, King has launched a campaign called 100 Days of Nonviolence on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. King hopes this campaign will start a worldwide conversation about nonviolence.
“I find myself in a unique position today—CEO of the King Center—of ensuring that generations of people understand that philosophy [of nonviolence] because the reality is that if we don’t embrace it, as my father once said, we will destroy ourselves in the misuse of our own instruments,” King said.
King also shed some light on her mother’s efforts during the civil rights movement.
“As I stand here tonight, I give honor and recognition to my mother as she gets lost in the equation when we talk about the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.,” King said.
“For 37 years after his assassination, she made a single decision and that was to institutionalize his legacy via the King Center and via the federal King holiday. She was the one who pounded the pavement, she was the one who reminded us what gave energy, inspiration to the movement and that was his nonviolence philosophy and methodology.”
During his address, Adams also drew on the impact that the King family has made on his life.
“I can’t imagine a world without Dr. King having been here,” Adams said. “It is because of the many brave souls like Dr. King and his regal wife Coretta Scott King, the freedom writers and the countless demonstrators that I am able to have an education and live a better life that my ancestors could only dream about.”
While Martin Luther King Jr.’s efforts made a huge impact in the civil rights movement, both King and Adams express their concerns for the future of human equality in terms of race and economic status.
Speaking to those currently advocating equality, Adams said, “There are still people out there seeking some solace.
“People are still being brutalized and being killed for being different,” he continued. “There are still groups of people who are waiting for their invitation to mainstream American society, like many of my wonderful undocumented friends and their families who need a venue to citizenship.”
“There’s still a tremendous amount of work that must be done,” King added. “Believe it or not, in our world today, 46 years after his assassination…zip code discrimination is a reality.”
However, Adams believes that there is still hope for equality in this nation.
“Time alone does not cure all evils. It takes all of us working collectively,” Adams said. “America, we need to do better, and yes, we can. Symbolically, it is still a time for many groups of people, and we need to bring everybody in from the cold, all of humanity.”