Dr. Bernice King, the youngest daughter of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King, spoke to a full crowd in the Castellani Art Museum at Niagara University on Jan. 31. She is the chief executive officer of the King Center, and took the time to reflect on her father’s legacy, address current political events, and educate those in attendance on how they can make a difference.
Following a standing ovation by a capacity crowd, King had those in attendance – students, community members, and even local leaders such as Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster – turn to each other and share one thing that they thought individuals should do to progress the world.
Citing the universal quest for easy answers, King said the path ahead isn’t going to be easy and that it will require everyone to do some hard work.
“In spite of who’s in the White House, each and every one of us has ideas of how we, as a nation, can move forward,” said King. “And we can’t rest and believe that the answers and solutions are only with one person or one group of people because the responsibility is on all of us.”
Talking about her father’s last book, Where Do We Go from Here, King said her father offered followers the choice of chaos or community. She also talked about how her father’s legacy speaks of a pathway for creating community, something that takes hard work and critical thinking.
“This is the time when we cannot afford to build walls,” said King. “We have to be in the business of building bridges.”
King also stressed the value in building real in-depth relationships, even with people who think, act, and are different.
“It’s going to be necessary that you arm yourselves with the ability and the commitment and the courage to build bridges across lines of different beliefs and ideologies, because at the end of the day, as my father said, ‘We must learn to live together as brothers of sisters, or together we will perish as fools.’”
King said those committed to a true sense of community or peaceful end must be dedicated to following a peaceful path in that process, and that even though it can be very emotional, they must manage emotions.
“We can’t let anger overtake us, we can’t let fear control us, we can’t let hate take roots in our hearts,” said King. “The people of light and the people of goodwill must always take the higher ground. And that’s what Dr. King was teaching those who followed him in that movement. It’s a personal commitment, because if you’re not prepared when you get out to resist, you can work against the very effort you were trying to make.”
King also discussed the importance of having a strategy to balance resistance, referencing one of the strategies she said her father left with us: to talk and negotiate, even with the ones who oppose us and hate us.
“To those in this generation, we have seen some bad times in America,” said King. “It’s actually been worse than this. There was a time when some of us did not have the power of protest … There was a time when people lived under constant terrorism. And we got through it. We’ll get through this. We have to hold people accountable and we have to always be in a position to raise someone who can represent all of America.”
King’s hour-long keynote address was followed by a question-and-answer session, as well as a book signing for members for the audience.
Article by Niagara University senior Samantha Martineau. She is also a member of the Public Relations Student Society of Niagara.