How Sad for Dr. King’s Legacy

19 Jan

Today, we celebrate and honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., an amazing man who advanced the African-American Civil Rights Movement through non-violent civil disobedience.

MLK DayHow surprised and sad I was when I read that his children are embroiled in a legal battle over Dr. King’s  personal Bible and his Nobel Peace Prize medal (which he was awarded in October of 1964). They are expected to appear in an Atlanta courtroom tomorrow.

His sons, Dexter King and Martin Luther King III, have sued their sister, Bernice King, who has possession of these items.  Dr. King’s estate is controlled by his sons who want to sell them to a private buyer. They are estimated to be worth millions of dollars.

In a statement, Bernice explained “There is no justification for selling either of these sacred items,” she wrote. “They are priceless and should never be exchanged for money in the marketplace. While I love my brothers dearly, this latest decision by them … reveals a desperation beyond comprehension.”

This isn’t the first lawsuit between the siblings.  In 2013, the 5oth anniversary of Dr. King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech, his estate demanded that Bernice, who serves as the CEO of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change, cease using Dr. King’s likeness and memorabilia. That case has yet to be decided.

Dr. King’s legacy is captured in this quote about the “Beloved Community”:

“The end of violence or the aftermath of violence is bitterness. The aftermath of nonviolence is reconciliation and the creation of a beloved community, so that when the battle is over, a new relationship comes into being between the oppressed and the oppressor.”

His words reinforce for me the power of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) versus taking a dispute to court. Court decision create winners and losers and bitterness. ADR helps to promote reconciliation and the hope of a new relationship.

It’s so sad that Dr. King’s children appear to have learned so little from their father. You have to wonder what the future holds for their relationship. I think he would be sad for them.


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