By Clifford L. Williams
With sincerity and heartfelt passion, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta Scott Kings’ eldest son, Martin Luther King lll, addressed an attentive audience at Allen Temple Baptist Church Saturday, drawing several rounds of enthusiastic applauds as he talked about his father’s legacy and what it means today.
King’s visit to Oakland was part of the Barbara Lee and Elihu Harris Lecture Series. Each year, the Barbara Lee and Elihu Harris Series brings to the Bay Area speakers who represent diverse ideas that provoke conversation about America‘s past, present and future. The lecture series has attracted national media attention. Previous speakers have included civil rights icons such as Ambassador Andrew Young and Congressman John Lewis.
His visit to Allen Temple included a special musical celebration from the Allen Temple Unity Choir, in addition to an inspiring medley of musical selections from gospel singer Bettie Mae Fikes, a freedom fighter and music leader who sang with the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee’s Freedom Singers.
Noting the life mission of his parents to eradicate poverty, racism, militarism and violence in society, King III has followed the same path of change to improve society.
A graduate of his father’s Alma mater, Morehouse College, King was elected to political office in 1986 as an at-large representative of over 700,000 residents of Fulton County, GA. He is has since initiated several programs throughout the years to support and nurture young people including the King Summer Intern Program which is designed to provide employment opportunities for high school students.
He founded Realizing the Dream, Inc. in 2006, which has since merged with the King Center. The organization continues to push the message of Dr. King, spearheading nonviolent education workshops and programs in Bosnia Herzegovina, India, Israel & Palestine, Kenya, Sri Lanka and the United States.
“We are nowhere near where we need to be. Black folks can’t create institutional racism, we can have prejudice and racial views but we really can’t be racist,” said King, addressing the crowd. “We all are prejudice. Prejudice is to pre-judge, but when we use our racism to oppress others that’s when it becomes true racism.”
His remarks later transitioned to praise for Oakland’s Congresswoman Barbara Lee whom he said, “because of her dedicated leadership, Oakland has become a progressive community.”
King concluded by reminding the audience that they are God’s finest creation, but operate at the lowest level when trying to solve conflict. Quoting the words of his father, he encouraged them not to be like a thermometer – a device that records temperature – and instead be like a thermostat, a tool used to regulate and control conditions.