King memorial service set

Clergy, activists in Annapolis announce event to honor civil rights activist, wife


Annapolis-area clergy and civil rights activists announced plans yesterday to hold a memorial service for the late Coretta Scott King at Anne Arundel Community College, where a sculpture of her slain husband is planned.

The service will remember Coretta King, who died in January of cancer at age 78, along with her husband, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., through music and prayer on April 2 at the Pascal Center for Performing Arts.

Organizers said at a news conference that the memorial service would provide Marylanders an opportunity to pay homage to the Kings, particularly Coretta King, who continued to work in the civil rights movement after her husband's assassination in 1968. She also was active in numerous other causes, including women's rights.

"The memorial service will focus on family, on community leadership ... and to help us be a part of the world community," said the Rev. Mamie A. Williams, who serves as executive director of the Multi-Ethnic Center for Ministry of the United Methodist Church's northeastern jurisdiction. She hoped the event would "serve as an example of what this community can do together."

Organizers also used the news conference, at Calvary United Methodist Church in Annapolis, to promote the fundraising effort for a King memorial. Some $150,000 has been raised toward completing the $250,000 project at AACC. Both of the Kings' daughters have spoken at the community college at observances of their father's birthday.

Ed Dwight, who created the Kunta Kinte-Alex Haley Memorial in Annapolis, has been commissioned to create a bronze sculpture of Martin Luther King Jr. atop a granite block. An arcing retaining wall would surround the statue and hold five bronze plaques depicting his famous quotations and biographical information. Dwight has agreed to symbolize Coretta King in the memorial, which would make it the first joint memorial in the nation, said Carl O. Snowden, a civil rights activist and an aide to County Executive Janet S. Owens.

Organizers plan to unveil the memorial on Aug. 28, the day Martin Luther King Jr. gave his "I have a dream" speech in Washington in 1963.

Yesterday's announcement comes as county leaders seek ways to deal with rising racial tension in the county. Last year, some black leaders criticized the acquittal of a white man in the death of a black teenager during a melee at a Pasadena party the previous year. Charges were later dropped against four other white men facing charges in the teenager's death. In response to the dumping of racist and anti-Semitic hate literature on residents' lawns, county leaders recently formed a task force to respond to suspected hate crimes.

Snowden said the memorial would "speak volumes about the county" in term of showing respect for all races.

"It's probably the best and most eloquent answer to bigots and bigotry," he said.

Coretta King came into her own as a civil rights leader after her husband's killing in 1968. Days after his death, she led a march of 50,000 in Memphis, Tenn. She founded the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change. She also led the effort to establish Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a federal holiday.

Coretta King's death occurred three months after the death of another luminary of the civil rights movement, Rosa Parks.

Parks became the first woman and second black person to lie in honor in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda shortly after her death Oct. 24, and thousands traveled to Washington to pay their respects to the civil rights activist who refused to give up her bus seat to a white man in 1955.

Marylanders did not have that same opportunity with Coretta King, whose body lay in honor in early February in the Georgia state capitol rotunda.

Snowden said he hoped the memorial service in Arnold would provide well-wishers a chance for reflection, if from afar. The event was conceived by the Rev. Roberta Matthews of Union Memorial United Methodist Church.

Tony Spencer, an aide to Annapolis Mayor Ellen O. Moyer, applauded Coretta King for ensuring "her husband's legacy is not forgotten." Local leaders pointed to the proposed memorial service and sculpture as examples of their desire to further push toward equality.

"Movements must continue to move," Snowden said.

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