ATLANTA – Flanked by family and supporters, the Rev. Bernice King, the youngest daughter of civil rights icon Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Thursday morning held a press conference to address a lawsuit filed by her brothers.
Looking every bit the formidable boss, her tone was reflective and steadfastly determined. King said she is disassociating herself from her brothers.
“I will always love my brothers, but we are of different minds and most importantly, different relationships with God,” King said from the pulpit of the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta. “I know my position is right. It’s about standing on principle.”
Her emotional speech, which clearly reflects her deteriorating relationship with her older siblings, comes following a lawsuit filed against her by her brothers, Dexter Scott King and Martin Luther King III. The suit is asking a judge to force King to relinquish their father’s Nobel Peace Prize and “traveling” Bible, which was used during President Obama’s second inauguration.
The complaint states King has “secreted and sequestered” them in violation of a 1995 agreement that gave the estate of Martin Luther King Jr., controlled by the brothers, ownership of all their father’s property.
“They are hidden in plain sight,” said King, the CEO of the King Center in Atlanta. “They know where they are. But God put them beyond their reach.”
Clearly seeing herself as the guardian of her father’s legacy, King said, “These items should never be sold to any person, as I say it, or any institution, because they’re sacred. I take this strong position for my father because Daddy is not here to say himself my Bible and medals are never to be sold.”
In a blistering statement issued on Tuesday against her brothers, King states that ahead of the legal challenge her brothers approached her about selling “our father’s most prized possessions.” Neither of the brothers has publicly commented on the pending lawsuit.
Speaking to theGrio over the phone immediately after the conference, Dr. Joseph Lowery, a major figure in the civil rights movement who marched with Dr. King, said he was “deeply disturbed” even by the suggestion of selling King’s Bible and Nobel Peace Prize.
“I don’t even want to admit there’s a discussion about putting those items on the market,” said Lowery. “They are sacred items, not only are they sacred to the family but they’re sacred to the community. They represent Martin’s life work and commitment to justice and serving God.”
“I hope [the King brothers] can resolve whatever financial difficulties they have without selling these items.”
Though, the siblings have been involved in ongoing legal battles, significantly, this is the first time Bernice King has given a public response attacking her brothers.
“Without knowing the particulars and conversations it’s sad that they are not on one accord on how to handle this situation and are airing their dirty linen in public,” said Morris Tipton, of the National Baptist Convention.
“I don’t know the particulars and details but I am praying for reconciliation and for the family not to taint the legacy of their father,” said Rev. Samuel Mosteller, president of the SCLC’s Georgia chapter.
Still, he adds he agrees with King that these items shouldn’t be in the hands of a third party. “The value lost in that sale would be monumental and couldn’t be replaced.”
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