There are two sides to every story, I know. So, when I hear about the in-fighting, the lawsuits and what appears to be greed coming out of the MLK family’s camp, I’m trying to keep an open mind. But it isn’t easy.
The latest is that the surviving children of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King have refused to grant the MLK foundation a license to continue to use Dr. King’s name. They’re not allowing it even though the foundation raised the $100 million dollars needed to build the statue dedicated to the civil rights icon.
The King family, which consists of Martin III, Dexter and Rev. Bernice King, rightfully control the copyrights to their father’s images and words. So, it isn’t so much what they’re doing that’s questionable. It’s the way they’re going about it.
In fairness to them they are the sole heirs of a man who gave so much to so many but died without a will and no instructions on how his financial affairs should be handled. In order to manage their dad’s estate, the King family formed a corporation, King Inc.
It doesn’t appear that any of the King children have great earning capacity, and I assume they receive their primary income from the family business. I’m sure if anyone was to benefit from his legacy, Dr. King would want it to be his children.
But I wonder if the three of them have ever wondered what THEIR legacy will be? Right now, it doesn’t look like one that brings honor and pride to the memory of someone as great as their father. While not perfect, no one can deny Dr. King’s commitment, dedication to the civil rights cause and the personal sacrifices he made. I often say the reason so many people who came behind Dr. King could never live up to what he accomplished is because they were trying too hard to be great.
Dr. King wasn’t seeking to be great or to have a great fortune. But now it looks like money is the only thing his family is really passionate about.
The MLK Memorial Foundation has paid King Inc. $2.7 million to use the likeness of Dr. King and his words on the memoriam. According to an article in “Roland Martin Reports,” the King family has removed all of Dr. King’s books from the memorial’s bookstore because they wanted to reap all profits from the merchandising.
They’ve also received $32 million from MLK papers sold to the city of Atlanta. There have been several suits, too many to mention here, but at least one involved them suing each other. Bernice and Martin the III teamed up against Dexter over money from their mother’s book deal.
Before Mrs. King died, she sued Boston University to get them to give back papers and memorabilia Dr. King himself had donated to his alma mater.
The toughest ones though was King Inc. suing a TV anchorman in Mississippi for papers and photos his mom, Maude Ballou collected when she worked as a secretary for Dr. King at the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. King Inc. said it owned those papers, but thankfully, the federal court ruled Mrs. Ballou’s son could keep the documents that included a handwritten letter to Mrs. Ballou from Rosa Parks.
A friend of mine went to see the Broadway play “Motown: The Musical,” and said it was obvious that the character depicting Dr. King didn’t use any language from the actual “I Have a Dream” speech.
Kinda sad. I wonder how many people will miss the opportunity to see and hear Dr. King’s works?
After Roland Martin reported on the story about the King Foundation, we joked about how far King Inc. would go with this. Will Bernice sue Dexter for looking and sounding too much like their father? Will Dexter in turn sue Martin Luther King III for using their father’s name? Will the three of them sue Don King, Regina King and Smoothie King?
In all seriousness, I would be the last person to suggest that the Kings or any other family stop making money. I just hope at some point they will take more of what their father taught, preached about and lived to heart. Handle your business but with dignity and class.