Bernice King to hold press conference amid MLK family battles
The formidable CEO of the King Center is scheduled to hold a press conference Thursday at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta in response to a lawsuit filed by her siblings.
Her press officer told theGrio that King is expected to read from a prepared statement expressing her opposition then will field questions from reporters.
It comes following a complaint against King, filed Friday in Fulton County Superior Court in Atlanta by the estate of Martin Luther King Jr., which is managed by her brothers. The suit is asking a judge to force King to relinquish their father’s Nobel Peace Prize and “traveling” Bible.
The court documents, which has been viewed by theGrio, says in 1995 Martin Luther King Jr.’s heirs, including the defendant, assigned their rights to property inherited from their father to the Estate of Martin Luther King Jr. Inc. The lawsuit goes onto to state that King has “secreted and sequestered” the medal and Bible “in an undisclosed location” which is a violation of the 1995 agreement.
In response, King, the youngest and only living daughter of the late civil rights icon Dr. Martin Luther King, issued a strongly worded statement Tuesday against her brothers, Dexter Scott King and Martin Luther King III.
She claims this latest legal challenge is motivated by monetary gain. She states that ahead of the suit her brothers approached her about selling “our father’s most prized possessions,” his Nobel Peace Prize medal and his personal Bible, to a third party.
“The thought of profiting from the sale of the Peace Prize Medal, which my father accepted 50 years ago this year on behalf of the greatest demonstration of peace this nation has ever seen, is spiritually violent, unconscionable, historically negligent, and outright morally reprehensible,” reads the statement.
“Some actions are sacrilegious and some things are not for sale no matter the circumstances, including my daddy’s Bible and Nobel Peace Prize Medal,” said King. “Parting with this priceless memorabilia should not be an option.”
“As a member of the King family and also The King Center Board, I echo the concerns of my cousin Bernice King. We appreciate your prayers for our family at this time. May the love and faith of our ancestors reverberate as we seek the wisdom of God during these days of trials and tribulation,” said Dr. Alveda King, King Family Legacy Foundation.
“I agree with Bernice that these items are priceless and it’s unfortunate that they disagree,” said former U.S. Ambassador Andrew Young, who was one of Dr. King’s closest aides.
Weighing in on the spat, Fred Davis, a former Memphis city councilman and civil rights activist who marched alongside King hours before he was assassinated, said he considered the items as “sacred family” and “public possession.”
“I think this should be the heritage of King generations and not in the possession of someone who’s not part of the bloodline,” adds Davis. “Anyone of his descendants ought to be able to point to his Nobel Peace Prize.”
The conflict is the latest in a long history of squabbles and infighting among the siblings. King and her brothers have been in and out of court for years over various disputes about their father’s estate.
Last August, the brothers filed suit against Bernice and the King Center on the grounds the center had been negligent in its handling of King memorabilia. The case is still ongoing.
“This has been going on for years, the fighting between the siblings,” said Sidmel Estes, a veteran journalist and adjunct professor at Clark Atlanta University. “Ever since their mother got sick it’s been a mess. The eldest daughter –Yolanda – who passed was the mediating force but after her demise the two boys and Bernice have been at it.”
“I know all the siblings personally. I am very disappointed. I know brothers and sisters fight but there’s a certain point when you must rise and be grown up about it. It’s very disappointing to the people who were close to King. They can’t stand this infighting.”
Still, Young said most observers would never be able to understand the ongoing pressure that faces MLK’s heirs, who were vulnerable young children at the time of their father’s untimely death.
“A lot of people look at this as about greed and infighting but it’s more about sibling rivalry and family conflict,” said clinical psychologist Dr. Jeffrey Gardere. “Being the children of the one of the greatest figures in the world, it’s only natural there would be conflict, even competition, to keep the dreams of their father alive.”
“It’s hard being the children of Martin and Coretta King,” said Young. “Martin was ten, Dexter was seven and Bernice was around five when their father was assassinated.”
“They are expected to be world leaders but they never knew their father. They are expected to uphold his principles but never knew him.”
A spokesperson for Martin Luther King III and Dexter Scott King could not be reached to the time of publication.
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