MLK’s daughter gives a message of hope, effort

Rani Gupta

To overcome widespread oppression, the United States needs great leaders like Martin Luther King Jr. to rise up, King’s youngest daughter told about 325 people Monday night in Pick-Staiger Concert Hall.

The Rev. Bernice King spoke during Associated Student Government’s first MLK Day celebration, which also featured an hourlong performance by the Chicago Children’s Choir that netted four standing ovations.

King addressed controversy about obtaining a full day of canceled classes for MLK Day, saying she hoped Northwestern would one day fully recognize the holiday.

“My hope is that one day on this campus we will be able to completely and fully celebrate my father’s birthday, ” she said.

King said today’s problems call for leaders who share her father’s characteristics, including courage, commitment and humility.

Contemporary leaders who go along with public opinion should instead follow the example of MLK, who risked losing support by criticizing the Vietnam War, King said.

“Imagine what America would be like if we had more people who were molders of consensus instead of seeking the consensus,” she said.

King also pushed those in attendance to look beyond her father’s most oft-repeated words, which came as the most hopeful part of an address filled with other, more challenging ideas.

“The ‘I Have a Dream’ speech is not the only speech that my father made,” King said. “It’s the most famous, but it’s not even the best speech. They make us think it’s the best speech because it’s the safest.”

King said her father’s struggles with racism persist because contemporary society institutionalizes racial superiority in schools and the media.

“Even though the signs are gone, in the South these signs are merely etched into the minds and hearts of people,” she said.

King blamed the educational system for portraying the accomplishments of minorities as footnotes to those of whites and said schools must integrate the histories of all races.

“It’s not enough to have an African-American history department,” she said. “It’s time for two to become one. Instead of having African-American history and Asian-American history, why can’t we have one history that incorporates all of this?”

Racial oppression is the result of a small group of people who control the nation’s major functions, King said, by fixing presidential elections and perpetuating war by funding both sides during most conflicts. King said these people were responsible for her father’s death.

“One reason he was assassinated was not that he said black and white people can sit together, but because he attacked the materialistic and greedy mentality in America,” King said. “He said something’s wrong when you’re spending one billion dollars to kill people, but you’re not spending an equivalent amount of money to uplift people in our own country.

“Martin Luther King was too close to uncovering the truth and he had to go. But they didn’t realize he had a daughter,” she said.

Le’Jamiel Goodall, chairman of ASG’s ad-hoc MLK Day committee, said he was pleased with the quality of the programming and expected ASG to approve funding for next year.

“What we have to work on is reducing our budget and using the amount we have to produce the same quality of programming,” said Goodall, a Speech senior. “Attendance at MLK events has been down, so I think ASG should work with the university to create one large, well-attended program.”

Committee member Mike Blake said programming is needed to continue King’s legacy regardless of attendance.

“We have to realize that there’s going to be a time when the people around Dr. King are not going to be around anymore,” said Blake, a Medill sophomore.