Texas A&M Welcomes Bernice A. King For Annual MLK Breakfast
Speaking with the same power and moral conviction that helped make her father a legend of the civil rights movement, Bernice A. King reminded a packed audience at Texas A&M University why the name Martin Luther King Jr. still means so much to so many around the world.
The youngest child of King and his wife, Coretta, the 59-year-old minister, attorney and peace advocate serves as the CEO of the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change in Atlanta, Georgia. On Thursday, she traveled to Aggieland to serve as the guest of honor and keynote speaker at this year’s Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Breakfast, an annual event celebrating her father’s life and legacy hosted by the MSC Carter G. Woodson Black Awareness Committee each January.
“I think it’s important that we continue to commemorate his birthday, because to me, he provided a vision for our world,” King said. “He gave us a vision to create a world where we can coexist — that’s all about diversity — in a way where we would respect the dignity, worth and value of every human being.”
In a sweeping conversation with moderator Troy Harden, director of Texas A&M’s Race and Ethnic Studies Institute, King talked about her family and upbringing, her relationship with God, and her decades-long effort to promote her father’s philosophy of nonviolence.
“Daddy said true peace is not merely the absence of tension but the presence of justice,” King said. Similarly, she explained, nonviolence is not merely an absence of violence.
“Nonviolence is the presence of something that’s positive and powerful,” King said. “A love-centered way of thinking, speaking and actively engaging that leads to personal, cultural and societal transformation.”
That’s the message she tries to emphasize as she shares her late father’s legacy with the world — continuing the work her mother, Coretta, began shortly after King was killed on April 4, 1968.
“When my father was assassinated, he was one of the most hated persons in the United States of America — now he’s one of the most loved persons in the world,” King said. “I would argue that’s because of the devotion, the dedication and the work of Coretta Scott King.”
A highly skilled activist in her own right, Corretta took a decidedly international approach, helping share her husband’s words and actions with the rest of the world, King explained. Today, she said, more than 100 nations commemorate the birth of Martin Luther King Jr.
Still, King said, she didn’t always share her parents’ way of thinking. After losing her father at age 5, an uncle at age 6 and her paternal grandmother at 11, King said she found herself walking down a dangerous path.
“I kind of got lost in myself. All kinds of emotions developed inside of me — in particular, a lot of anger that led to bitterness, moments of rage,” King said. “I had to figure out a pathway because the anger was overtaking me.”
Ultimately, King said she found solace and purpose in her Christian faith and the lasting example set by her father.
“(Healing) is an ongoing process … I try to be conscious of what’s happening inside of me on a day-to-day basis,” she said. “I want to make sure that I’m in a place for God to use me at any point he wants to reach somebody, because God’s access to Earth is through humankind.”
Looking to the future, King said it brings her joy to see so many young people taking up the struggle for justice and progress. She invited students to learn from the work of previous generations as they recognize that the fight against racism and other forms of hate is difficult but ultimately worthwhile.
“My mother said struggle is a never-ending process, freedom is never really won. You earn it and win it at every generation,” King said. “You cannot check out, because it’s your time to step up and engage these very difficult issues.”