King's daughter discusses meaning of black history

February 19, 1997|By Stacey Patton | Stacey Patton,SUN STAFF

Yolanda King, the eldest child of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., told a rapt Johns Hopkins University audience last night that she had an answer to those who question the relevance of celebrating Black History Month.

This month's celebration allows African-Americans to know their story, she said, which is a history of lynchings, beatings, bombings, cross burnings and the daily experience of racism that is all too vivid for her to forget. It also allows other Americans to know the story.

"We must remember history," King said, "so that we do not let it repeat itself, so that we can live together in peace instead of dying together as ignorant fools."

King's appearance was part of the Black History Month celebration organized by the Black Students Union at Hopkins.

The theme of the celebration is "Beating the Drum From Africa to America."

In stressing the importance of African-American history, King quoted black leader Malcolm X, who said that "a people cannot know where they are going until they know where they have come from."

King expanded upon his point.

"We cannot know the history of America until we know the story of African-Americans," she said.

Born in Montgomery, Ala., in 1955, two weeks before Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a bus and triggered the movement that ultimately desegregated the South, King has been in the midst of the struggle for human and civil rights all her life.

King combined her involvement in working for social change with her artistic pursuits as an actress.

She was in Baltimore earlier this month to perform her one-woman theatrical tribute to her father, "Achieving the Dream."

For 10 years she roamed the country with Attallah Shabazz, the eldest daughter of Malcolm X, with productions geared toward young people, playing churches, community centers, schools and prisons.

King said she sees no conflict between her social activism and her artistic pursuits.

"While it is imperative to actively challenge the forces that deny human beings their right to a decent life, one must also stimulate and alter the hearts and minds of both the privileged, as well as those who have been too long denied," she said. "Within the arts lies this power."

Pub Date: 2/19/97

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