King’s Granddaughter Advocates Unity: Calls for Goodwill Among Georgians in Honor of Civil Rights Icon

The 15-year-old granddaughter of Martin Luther King Jr. stated that Georgia may continue to lead by example in the national struggle for justice and equality, which King promoted before his killing, during a speech at the state capitol on Friday.

At the state’s yearly celebration of the civil rights leader’s birthday, more than 150 people gathered. Yolanda Renee King, the only grandchild of the icon and his wife Coretta Scott King, served as the keynote speaker and inspired the people of Georgia.

On Monday, the federal and Georgian governments will be closed in honor of King’s birthday, which is observed on the third Monday of each January. King, who was 39 years old when he was killed in 1968, was the main figurehead of the peaceful Civil Rights movement that opposed the institutionalized racism that Black people in the deep South and other regions of the country faced.

King stated that by taking advantage of the chance to remember King via community service this holiday weekend, Georgians can continue the progress the state has made over the past few decades to address historical injustices.

“With all of the racial segregation of our past, he was able to sow seeds of interracial brotherhood and sisterhood into the red clay of this state,” she said at the Capitol ceremony. “All Georgians can take pride that Martin Luther King Jr. called our state home.” People of many colors and religions stood up for justice and equality under his guidance. Let us give thanks to God that, more than any other state, Georgia has seen the flourishing of this spirit of interracial harmony.

Friday, King would continue the legacy of her aunt and King’s daughter, Bernice King, who spoke at the state-sponsored 2020 memorial service for her father about the continuous fight against economic and social injustices.

King’s granddaughter emphasized the significance of the 2024 election cycle, which will see Georgians choose their representatives to Congress and the state legislature as well as the next president of the United States.

“Political campaigns in the United States in the coming months will undoubtedly divide our country, with Georgia emerging as one of the most hotly contested states,” the speaker stated. “Yet, as Georgians, we can also set a different tone—one of respect and goodwill toward one another, as well as one of tenacity and friendship for all people, which can still be embodied in the nonviolent spirit of Martin Luther King Jr.”

Friday’s ceremony was also an occasion to honor the June 29 death of King’s eldest sibling and a civil rights activist in her way, Christine King Farris, who became one of four Black Americans to have the privilege of lying in state at Georgia’s Capitol Rotunda.

Read More: A Day of Service and Reflection: Douglas and Coffee County Mark Martin Luther King Jr. Day with Meaningful Events

Republican governor Brian Kemp claimed that King’s steadfast commitment to racial equality is what ultimately resulted in the honoring of King’s widow and sister—something the state government had previously refused to do for King.

A few years before King’s passing, a nationwide survey indicated that over 60% of Americans had a negative opinion of him. In a 1965 Gallup poll, there was a clear racial divide in favor of King: 89% of Black Americans and 38% of White Americans agreed.

King's Granddaughter Advocates Unity Calls for Goodwill Among Georgians in Honor of Civil Rights Icon (1)

“We had the chance to give Farris the recognition that her brother had been wrongfully denied for decades before you know it was a bright example of the great strides made since his tragic death,” Kemp stated. “However, even as we recognize the efforts that have been made, it’s critical to keep in mind that there is still work to be done.”

The Georgia Martin Luther King Jr. Advisory Council honored this year’s recipients of honors during the event, which was named in honor of five longstanding Georgians who collaborated closely with King during the Civil Rights Movement.

Read More: Honoring the Dream: Martin Luther King Jr. Day Events Across Tampa

Former state representative Calvin Smyre, a.k.a. the longtime dean of the House, received a lifetime achievement award named for the late U.S. Representative John Lewis. After serving as a legislator for 48 years, the Columbus Democrat became the state’s longest-serving elected official and retired from the Legislature in 2022.

Omotayo Alli, who has served as the executive director of the Georgia Public Defender Council since 2020 and is recognized for enhancing legal representation for individuals who cannot afford it, and Smyre shared this year’s lifetime achievement award.

Additionally, on Friday, Rev. Joseph Lowery, a former United Methodist Church president who co-founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference with King, was honored with an award given to Bishop Reginald T. Jackson, who represents 500 Georgian churches in the African Methodist Episcopal Church’s Sixth Episcopal District.

Through a media collaboration with Georgia Recorder, this article is brought to Rough Draft.

In honor of the civil rights icon, King’s granddaughter asks Georgians to be kind to one another. This item originally appeared on Rough Draft Atlanta.

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