The children of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. have sunk to an all-time low and perhaps it’s finally time for a real family intervention.
America is witnessing a black family in crisis.
In the latest pitiful saga of family-against-family law suits, finger-pointing, and name-calling by the children of Dr. King, Bernice King now claims that her brothers, Martin Luther King III and Dexter King, are suing her to gain possession of King’s 1964 Nobel Peace Prize medal and a Bible used by President Barack Obama during his second inauguration so Martin III and Dexter can sell them.
In a suit filed in Georgia, the estate, chaired by King’s elder son, Martin, said Bernice King “has secreted and sequestered the property.” The estate is seeking an emergency court order forcing her to return the items.
So it’s come to this: Two of King’s most cherished possessions – the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize medal which he received for his courageous effort to lead a non-violent civil rights movement and his Bible — could end up being sold for a small fortune.
“My brothers want to sell my father’s Nobel Peace Prize medal and his Bible,” Bernice said in a statement released this week. “Our Father MUST be turning in his grave.”
“While I love my brothers dearly, this latest decision by them is extremely troubling,” she said. “Not only am I appalled and utterly ashamed, I am frankly disappointed that they would even entertain the thought of selling these precious items. It reveals a desperation beyond comprehension.”
Are Martin and Dexter so broke that they need to cash in on their father’s personal mementos?
And here’s an ironic twist: When King was notified of his award, he announced that he would turn over the prize money – $54,123 – to support the civil rights movement. Fifty years after King unselfishly donated his Nobel Prize money to his campaign for social justice, his children are fighting each other in court over the same Noble Prize medal – for money.
It’s sad to watch this ugly and unnecessary family dispute between King’s children being played out on a national stage. If Bernice King is right, Martin III and Dexter are looking pretty shady. King’s Bible held a special Christian meaning for him. Where does spirituality fit in with Martin III and Dexter’s law suit against their sister?
It’s clear that King’s kids cannot resolve their own differences so someone grounded is sanity and spirituality needs to step up and stop the madness. Perhaps someone close to the King family who they all respect, someone who will be thoughtful, caring, but firm. And someone who understands conflict resolution.
“My brothers’ decision to sue me is drastic and grieves me greatly. I have absolutely no desire to be in court or to fight yet another public battle,” Bernice King said in her statement. “Nevertheless, some actions are sacrilegious and some things are not for sale.”
Bernice King is chief executive officer of the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change, a nonprofit group in Atlanta formed by King’s widow after his 1968 assassination. She said the items have been under her care in recent years and have remained in “a safe and secure location” since her father’s assassination and the death of her mother, Coretta Scott King, in 2006.
Bernice should be allowed to keep her father’s Nobel Prize medal and his Bible. The items could be placed on public display at the Center for Nonviolent Social Change where the nation can appreciate them – not sold randomly like a used product on Ebay.
The latest dispute between the King family comes months after Martin III and Dexter decided to sue Andrew Young, the former U.S. Ambassador and close personal friend to King. At issue is a lawsuit initiated by King’s sons. The legal argument focuses on who has the rights to King’s words and image. King’s sons are apparently angry at Young over footage of King that appears in a production by Young’s foundation. Another of King’s friends — actor Harry Belafonte – is also embroiled in a legal dispute with King’s children over ownership of some King documents.
Meanwhile, Bernice King says she will not relinquish her father’s medal or his Bible.
“As a minister of the Gospel, the thought of selling my daddy’s Bible troubles my mind, vexes my spirit and weighs on my soul,” Bernice King said in her statement. “The thought of profiting from the sale of the Peace Prize Medal, which my father accepted 50 years ago this year on behalf of the greatest demonstration of peace this nation has ever seen, is spiritually violent, unconscionable, historically negligent, and outright morally reprehensible. This is especially true in light of the fact that my father gave away every dime of the Nobel award money to support the civil rights movement.”
“Though I am unsettled at the prospect of losing these treasures,” she said, “I am steadfast in my strength to protect them.”
For the sake of the King family, I hope help is on the way.