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“We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools” – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The children of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. are making a mockery of King’s legacy.
Bernice, Dexter and Martin Luther King III may need professional intervention to broker a truce in an embarrassing, long-simmering feud and general public foolishness.
Perhaps someone should call Iyanla Vanzant, the popular inspirational advisor, to help the King children sort through a myriad of deep-rooted and emotional issues that led Martin Luther King III and his brother, Dexter King, to sue their sister, Bernice King, last Wednesday on the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, where their father delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.
So last week, while Martin Luther King III sat in the shadow of the Lincoln Memorial and listened to President Barack Obama commemorate King while calling for jobs, justice and cultural understanding, he was actually suing his sister, Bernice King. Was it Marty’s intention to make a grand statement by suing his sister on the anniversary of his father’s historic speech?
With every law suit, the King children sink to new lows and the integrity of the once-proud family is called into question. Prominent black folks in Washington, D.C. are whispering privately about the King family meltdown, but few will speak publicly about it because they don’t want to offend the children who some claim were born to advance King’s dream.
The Estate of Martin Luther King Jr. Inc. is run by Martin Luther King III and Dexter King, while their sister, Bernice, heads The Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change. In the lawsuit, the brothers charge the center has been careless in its handling of King memorabilia, leaving historic documents and items at risk of fire, water, theft, mildew and mold.
Attempts to solve the problem by working with Bernice King have failed, the lawsuit says, and there has been a “total breakdown in communication and transparency.”
The King estate sent a 30-day notice in August to the center, notifying it that the licensing agreement for King memorabilia was being terminated. The letter said the center could avoid that by placing Bernice King on administrative leave and taking Andrew Young and Alveda King, Martin Luther King’s niece, from the board.
The brothers also allege King’s recordings, sermons, images, letters, speeches and copyrights are at risk of being damaged or stolen. King’s niece, Alveda, is also being accused of trying to impede an audit of Dr. MLK’s possessions that was being examined by the estate.
What kind of legacy are the King children leaving for the next generation of black youth? What message is the King family sending to black families? That there is no reconciliation among family members? That black families can’t sit down and work out their differences? That black families can only resolve their differences by taking each other to court?
I don’t know who is right or wrong, but clearly the King family’s issues date back years. In 2009, Bernice King and Martin Luther King III sued their brother Dexter.
They accused him of excluding them from decisions, withholding documents and refusing to hold a shareholder meeting for five years. They also claimed he had used the estate “for his own benefit” and that the assets may have been “misapplied or wasted.”
So four years ago, the feud was driven by Bernice King and Martin Luther King III who ganged up on Dexter, and today Martin Luther King III and Dexter have closed ranks and are suing their sister, Bernice. It’s a sorry situation for the King family who so many have looked to for inspiration and family values. But not anymore.
King would be disappointed – and perhaps heartbroken – to know that his three children are embroiled in a public scandal over his estate. Is it all about the money? Or power? Or control?
Why can’t they all just get along? “We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive,” King once said. It’s too bad his children weren’t listening.