An EM Black History Salute to Dr. Bernice A. King

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(Last Updated On: March 20, 2015)

Photo caption:  Dr. Bernice A. King Photo provided courtesy of First Kingdom Management. Copyright © 2014 First Kingdom Management. All Rights Reserved.

February is the month we celebrate black history across the nation. What better way to celebrate the contributions of the late Dr. Martin L. King than to recognize the contributions of his daughter Dr. Bernice King and her continued efforts to carry on the legacy of the great civil rights icon Dr. Martin L. King.

King is the chief executive officer of The King Center, which was founded by her mother, Coretta Scott King in 1968.  She was appointed to this position in January 2012 by the board of trustees.

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Dr. Bernice King speaking at the MLK annual holiday celebration 1/19/2015

Born the youngest daughter of the late Coretta Scott King and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., King began her oratorical journey when she spoke in her mother’s stead at the United Nations at age 17. King is a graduate of Spelman College with a bachelor of arts degree in psychology and a masters of divinity and doctorate of law degrees from Emory University.  She also received an honorary doctorate of divinity degree from Wesley College and is currently a member of the State Bar of Georgia.  In 2007, King returned to her alma mater at Spelman College to announce the establishment of the “Be A King Scholarship in honor of Coretta Scott King.”

King serves on the HOPE Southeastern Board of Directors of Operation HOPE and the Board of the inaugural Regions Diversity Advisory Council for Regions Financial.

With a strong concern for community and family partnership, King was privileged to serve as a law clerk in the Fulton County Juvenile Court system, under Judge Glenda Hatchett, who was host of the nationally syndicated Judge Hatchett show.  It was there that she realized that a growing number of teens have been double victims: first of society and secondly of an ineffective legal system based on retribution instead of rehabilitation.

She also has served as a mentor to a group of fifth grade girls at an inner-city Atlanta elementary school where she spent time molding their character and values.  In keeping with this vision, in 2007 Bernice spoke at the inauguration of the Coretta Scott King Young Women’s Leadership Academy (CSKYWLA) where she gave the charge to the sixth grade girls who would be attending the new all-girls school.  She reminded them that they were making history because they were among the first chosen to attend this school and as a result they would be expected to set the trend that others would follow.

She continues to serve as a mentor for the young ladies at CSKYWLA. In January of 2011, King launched the “100 Days of Nonviolence” campaign at CSKYWLA to expose them to nonviolence as modeled by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (“Kingian Nonviolence”), and to encourage them to begin embracing it as a way of life.  She challenges these young women to combat bullying, fighting, and negative attitudes by using their tongue in a positive and uplifting manner.

King founded Be A King, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to re-brand and re-image generations of  people to elevate the way they Think, Act, Learn, Love, Live, and Lead.  In September 2007, she launched the first Be A King Summit in Montgomery, Alabama on the campus of Alabama State University.

King has been featured on a number of shows, including Oprah, BET Talk with Tavis Smiley and the Judge Hachett Show to name a few and in People Magazine, Ebony, Essence, Ladies Home Journal, Gospel Today and Charisma Magazine.  In April 2008, King was one of the fifteen delegates selected to meet Pope Benedict XVI during his visit to the United States.  She also is featured in the fourteenth edition of Who’s Who in Black Atlanta that was officially unveiled on Nov. 28, 2012.

As an author, she has to her credit, her book, Hard Questions, Heart Answers, a compelling and inspiring book. She has also written articles, most recently for the Huffington Post on the topic of responding to the tragic mass shootings of 2012.

EM Columnist, Felicia Smith & Dr. Bernice King

From September 2010 through August 2011, King hosted a weekly hour and a half radio segment entitled: “Raise the Standard” on Praise 102.5 FM in Atlanta with Rhodell Lewis.  She covered a broad array of topics, including immigration reform, educational reform, health and wellness, teen violence, teen sexuality, high school dropout, voting responsibility, love, forgiveness and reconciliation, Why Should I Marry?, being single and celibate, childproofing your children, and parenting on the edge.

In the words of Alicia Keys “this girl is on FIYA.” While we recognize that she is far from a girl, what better way to celebrate Black History by recognizing that King is continuing to pass on the legacy and living the heritage of her late father, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as well as  her mother Coretta Scott King. She is no stranger to encouraging those across many nations that we are far from finished with the work that the civil rights icon began in the mid 60’s. We as a nation are connected and while we pick one month to celebrate the accolades of minorities, the work continues.

We each have a part to play. Dr. Bernice King is playing a very active role in the continued quest for equality for all, will you join?  Yes, I matter, you matter, we all matter and have a collective part role to play, not just Bernice and the King family. So when Dr. Martin L. King Day is celebrated each year, we are “on” and not off from work, because as a people, our work continues.

Don’t forget to take a moment to celebrate those in the black community who paved the way for our freedom, this month, and every month.

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More about Felicia Smith

Felicia Smith is an author and Empower Magazine columnist.

An Empower Magazine Black History Salute to Dr. Bernice A. King