Dr. Derek Barber King, the nephew of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., spoke at MCCC about the importance of equality and creating social change.
“Martin said ‘We as a people will get to the promised land.’ He didn’t say black folks are gonna get there. We as a people; America still has a promise to live up to. All men, generically, are created equal,” King said.
King spoke in the La-Z-Boy Center Meyer Theater on Jan. 14. The event was in celebration of Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, which was Jan. 15. King was also at the Arthur Lesow Community Center in Monroe at 6 p.m. for a panel discussion.
“I am guided by the Holy Spirit when it comes to addressing people this time of the year, because of a fellow acknowledgement of Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday. And I’m in his family,” King said to introduce his speech.
King’s father worked with his older brother, Martin Luther King Jr., on civil rights actions. King’s father was with Martin Luther King Jr. when he was assassinated in Memphis, Tenn., in 1968. At the time, Derek King was just 14 years old.
King conducts workshops and seminars on creating social change through nonviolent strategies and tactics. He works to end discrimination, racism, oppression, and violence. King is a certified conflict resolution coach in regard to the discipline of Kingian Nonviolence.
King has a bachelor’s degree in religious studies, a master of divinity degree, and doctor of divinity degrees from three colleges. King was a professor of religious studies for 19 years at Martin University in Indianapolis and a minister at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, before retiring in May.
King emphasized the importance of Martin Luther King Jr.’s death for the civil rights movement.
“When Martin Luther King Jr. physically was removed from the human experience, those who plotted to have his death become a reality underestimated that decision, that action, and its outcome. They thought it was over,” King said.
“But they had made Martin Luther King Jr. become more powerful than they could imagine. Streets, thoroughfares, buildings, intersections, a national holiday, a permanent monument in Washington D.C.: all bearing his name. And many of them in his image. They have made him more powerful than they can imagine.”
However, King said that this outcome was not what Martin Luther King Jr. intended.
“His intention was for people of conscience, color, commitment, and faith to own up to the fact that America will not be what she says she is on paper until what she wrote on paper becomes reality,” said King.
Despite the progress that Martin Luther King Jr. made, King stressed that there is still more progress needed.
“People who love human rights, justice, equality, we still got some work to do,” said King.
“We have been race-labeling for too long.”
Additionally, King also spoke about the progress that can be made in politics.
“I vote for people who are gonna do the right thing and represent the Constitution in its purity. Politically, we got some work to do,” King said.
King made an additional comment about politics.
“Something is wrong, when people who we have elected, who get into a debate over some positions, and end up having almost a million people work without getting paid: that is wrong.”
King said that people have been fighting over skin color for too long and have put up barriers and walls against each other. However, he said that people need to realize that people are created equal.
“We might’ve come over on different boats, but we’re on the same shore now. Wherever I go, I’m gonna see you. And wherever you go, you gonna see me.”
King concluded by telling about his grandmother’s quilts, made from found colorful fabric swatches. The quilts had many different swatches, but she used one common thread throughout.
“If we as a people are gonna get to the promised land, my friends, you got to understand that we black folk can’t do it by ourselves. White folk can’t do it by themselves. Straight folks. Gay folks. Educated folks. Uneducated folks,” he said.
“But when God binds us heart to heart, breast to breast, knowing it was out of one blood that God created every man to dwell on the face of the earth, it will speed up the date. As Martin said, ‘Black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, can all join hands, say free at last. Free at last. Thank God Almighty, we are free at last.’ "