The King Center gears up for the 50th anniversary

theGRIO REPORT - Bernice King’s diary is jam-packed. The head of the King Center in Atlanta has been inundated with media requests leading up to the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington...

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ATLANTA – Bernice King’s diary is jam-packed. The head of the King Center in Atlanta has been inundated with media requests leading up to the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington.

King, the youngest child of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., has already done numerous interviews, including the BBC and Russia Today. Though, requests from news outlets in Japan, France, Germany and the Netherlands are still pending.

The 50-year-old, who has been the matriarch of the center (also known as the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change) since Jan. 2012, has been the driving force behind the commemoration events.

“Our coalition has organized a wonderful, diverse program, which begins in Atlanta, continues for 8 days in Washington, D.C. and culminates with a global bell-ringing,” King said.

“We expect hundreds of thousands of people to join us in the nation’s capital for this historic event, and many more to take part world-wide in their communities.”

The anniversary on August 28 also commemorates the actual day of MLK’s monumental “I Have a Dream” speech. And it is by far one of the most significant events since the inception of the landmark civil rights center founded in 1968 by MLK’s widow — Coretta Scott King.

Still, the behind the scenes organization of the week-long series of services, discussions, and celebrations has largely been a collaborative effort.

Steve Klein, a spokesman for the King Center, recalls that in one of the first meetings there were no less than 30 groups sitting around the table. The original surviving civil rights groups who organized the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom are involved in the events, Klein said.

Civil rights activists such as the NAACP, National Urban League, Southern Christian Leadership Conference and National Coalition on Black Civic Participation have all joined forces with the King Center as co-sponsors to this historic milestone.

So for instance the NAACP is co-hosting the March on Washington on August 24.

“The association has been working for several weeks with local units across the country to bring members from different states to the march on Saturday,” Sammie Dow, Director of the NAACP Youth and College Division, said.

He adds that an important component will be a conference empowering the younger generation as part of the official 50th anniversary March on Washington week of events. “It is vital that we give young people the tools to go back to their communities and do the work,” Dow said.

For Klein, his job has been to coordinate bell-ringing programs at scheduled sites on August 28 at 3 p.m., the very moment when MLK began addressing the crowd. The commemoration will also include the bell-ringing and celebratory activities across the globe.

“It’s a symbolic affirmation of the global and national unity in the spirit of Martin Luther King’s Jr’s dream,” Klein said.

By far the most fervent activity has been between foot-soldiers in D.C. and the Atlanta hub.

“Activists in the two cities [Washington and Atlanta] have been working closely together. There’s been a lot of back and forth and everything that comes with organizing such an historic even,” Klein said.

“I think this 50th anniversary is a wake-up call to really connect in the freedom struggle, not just to react in moments of crises,” King told theGrio. “I hope that this will be an opportunity to see where we stand today with race relations.”

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