Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Coretta Scott King, 1927-2006

Civil Rights Icon Coretta Scott King, 1927-2006
The Rev. Jesse Jackson, Rev. Joseph Lowery and Herb Boyd reflect on the legacy of freedom fighter Coretta Scott King, the widow of Martin Luther King Jr.

That's from today's Democracy Now! and they did a strong job organizing it basically while they were on the air. Juan Gonzalez filled in for Amy Goodman who's somewhere overseas. They announced where but it's been a daze day due to the news of the passing of Mrs. King.

1927 seems so long ago and that may be due to the fact Mrs. King aged well. My cousin pointed out that Jack Nicholson and Jane Fonda are only a decade younger. (He pointed that out when someone trying to be silly on a sad day said, "Black don't crack!" No one was in the mood for yucks and ha-has today.)

It is so strange and distant to think of Mrs. King not being in this world with us any longer. I grew up hearing about her, reading about her and, honestly, kind of feeling her. There's a sadness that sort of falls today and it's really sad.

Dr. King was taken from us before people my age were even born but we had Mrs. King and she just always seemed like this smiling, kind giant, so strong and so comforting. They killed her husband and she still found her way to love the world. Growing up, I got angry and mad about Dr. King being assassinated and I'm sure she did as well. But she was just this ocean of gentleness.

You knew she could stand up to anyone and would do it. But she just radiated sweetness and kindness. I can't believe she's gone.

I looked at The Third Estate Sunday Review today because I knew she'd been brought up in discussions there and I found these two things in November.

First, "Five Books, Five Minutes:"

Rebecca: C.I., Elaine and I have all been joking back and forth with each other at our sites about books we give to each other. One book that C.I. gave me that I've always meant to read but never gotten around to was Alice Walker's In Search Of Our Mother's Gardens.
Ty: This was a great book. These are essays, the subtitle to the book is "womanist prose," and they are some outstanding essays. Like most people, I knew Walker's fiction. And we've read some of her poetry for discussions here. But this was my first time reading any of her essays.With a lot of writers, you read one genre and that's their solid footing. Walker's really able to work in various genres and do strong work throughout. My favorite was "The Unglamorous but Worthwhile Duties of the Black Revolutionary Artist, or of the Black Writer Who Simply Works and Writes."
Cedric: I'd agree that's a good one but for me the one that stood out was "Coretta King Revisted" due to Coretta Scott King's recent health problems.
Betty: I actually skipped that one because her stroke still saddens me. She's someone who's always been larger than life to me, someone to look up to and, since her stroke, the tears well up too easily so I took a pass on that essay. Her essay on Buchi Emecheta's Second Class Citizen was the one that had me thinking the most.

Second, a later "Five Books, Five Minutes:"

Cedric: One thing that puzzled me was why the host of the discussion between Malcolm X and Rustin wasn't identified except as "HOST"? I'm also wondering who you found yourself siding with in the discussion?

Jess: For me, it was Malcolm. I know his writing and his story, so I may have been filling in details that I wasn't able to with Rustin but I got the impression that Rustin grew more cautious with age.
Betty: I'd agree with that except for the issue of sexuality. That reads cautious today but for the time period, that is a big deal. And I'll add that he was known within the civil rights movment as gay and, in fact, within the nation since an arrest was used by a White senator to force Rustin out of the movement. But in terms of discussing his sexuality publicly, that's in the eighties. And it was a big deal.
Cedric: And you can say it still is a big deal because Rustin is one of the civil rights pioneer, very essential to the movement, and he's not someone that is stressed when you hear of the civil rights movement.
Betty: I'd agree with that. I'd add that it's part of our community's, I'm speaking of the Black community and directing the "our" to Cedric, refusal or reluctance to address the issue of sexuality and orientation. I think it's embarrassing. Of course some do address it. But we've allowed it to be a something that can turn against each other. Bully Boy's been able to use it with some Black churches, sexual orientation, to turn them against their own interests. In my church we had to deal with it, we had too many members and families of members who were dealing with AIDS. It's one of the healthiest things we've done. With the empahis on family in the Black community, I look skeptical at any Black person that tells me they've never met a gay or lesbian. They are in our families, they are in our churches and it distresses that a White Bully Boy has been allowed by some "Black leaders" to turn us against each other. There's some idiot. and I use that term by choice, Cedric's also heard him, his "sermons" get passed around in e-mails. And for someone so supposedly opposed to gays and lesbians, he sure knows a lot about gay sex and he sure seems to enjoy talking about it in terms that I can't imagine sex being talked about in my church.
Cedric: Yeah, that guy is an idiot. And every month or so, it'll pop up in an e-mail forward to someone in the office and they'll be giggling at it. They say, if you ask them, they're laughing at how stupid he is. Well that doesn't help the race either, flaunting ignorance. I really do not have respect for people who pass that around, either out of their own beliefs or to giggle over.Ty: And this goes to what erases Rustin for history and how a race whose leaders want to fuss and fret over language don't want to address serious issues. I mean, where is Bill Cosby on this issue? Where his speech on the need for us to embrace one another?
Betty: Exactly, you can list the leaders who've addressed this topic in any form and it's a small list. Coretta Scott King and Julian Bond would be on the list but a lot of other so-called "brave" voices wouldn't be. I like Jesse Jackson but I don't respect his opinions on this issue.Rebecca: Which is interesting that you cite him when Rustin cites him as one of the people working to turn MLK against him.
Ty: And it's forty years later and he still hasn't changed his tune.
Cedric: I don't know if Dona wants to call time or not, I know we've got Betty's pick still to do.
Dona: No, this has been an interesting discussion and we can extend. We actually have two more books.
Cedric: Well I'll make my comment and try to be brief about it. Some African-Americans are offended when sexual orientation is likened to race. And it's not just that. You heard some nonsense about "Cindy Sheehan is no Rosa Parks!" As though allowing someone else to build on a very powerful movement will erase Ms. Parks. It won't. It will only extend her reach and future generations' knowlege of her. I hear, everyone hears, modern day comparisons to George Washington or Thomas Jefferson or whomever. They become points of reference. I can understand the fear here because any minority group risks being stripped of whatever place in history they've earned. But while realizing that, we should realize that part of what makes Whites such a point of history, besides who got to draw it up, is that it is a short hand. Most people couldn't tell you where Thomas Jefferson was born. But they can use him as a point of reference. When the civil rights movement is used as a point of reference, I think it extends the movement, keeps it alive in history and increases knowledge. Otherwise it's going to be confined to one time, one period, one group and it will be ghetto-ized in terms of how history is taught. I'm thrilled that we have our African-American heroes but I want to see them be heroes for all. They fought as hard as anyone else and they are a part of American history. I was thrilled to hear some people calling Cindy Sheehan the Rosa Parks of the peace movement. I see it as a huge improvement over years of someone being "the Black __" who ever. We have heroic figures and their struggles are heroic. If they inspire people that's a great thing, regardless of race. The point of teaching Black History is to get it back into our understanding of history. It's a part of American history and hopefully it will be worked into American history more and more with each generation. I'm done.
Ty: I'll add that I agree with Cedric. I've attended predominately African-American schools and predominatley White ones. And I've seen a "Oh, it's Black history" type collective groan at some of the White schools. In standing up for her race, Rosa Parks stood up for a better nation.I didn't always hear that point in made in school.

If you were talking about civil rights then or now (and civil rights is still a battle to be fought today), you couldn't have much of a conversation without mentioning Mrs. King. She really was something special and that's going to have be it because this is upsetting to write about.

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