Recognizing Kings of civil rights

Program celebrates lives of historic pair


On an occasion of remembrance for the civil rights struggles of the late Coretta Scott King and of her slain husband, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., one of the most stirring tributes came from the smallest speaker to address the crowd.

"I stand here before you," said DeRon Young, 10, "and I say I want to be another Dr. Martin Luther King." The audience of almost 400 people at Anne Arundel Community College whooped, jumped to their feet and applauded.

The boy was one of a dozen speakers and performers who participated in a two-hour celebration of the lives of the first couple of the civil rights movement.

Organized by Annapolis-area black leaders and clergy, yesterday's gathering was called the first public memorial to Coretta Scott King in the state. She died in January while seeking treatment for ovarian cancer at a hospital in Rosarito, Mexico.

The event also marked the 38th anniversary of King's assassination. He was shot at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tenn., on April 4, 1968.

In his speech, Carl O. Snowden, a civil rights activist and an aide to County Executive Janet S. Owens, recalled being 13 years old when King was shot. "Everywhere I went I saw people crying," Snowden said.

Snowden said the slaying of King and then the murder of Robert F. Kennedy two months later during his campaign for president created a generation of cynics. "Idealism became the victims of those two bullets," he said.

"We've got to keep the movement for social justice moving," he said.

The memorial service also helped to raise $5,000 toward a statue of King and a garden dedicated to his wife on the campus.

The memorial is estimated to cost $350,000 - $100,000 more than previously thought. Snowden said $200,000 has already been raised. Part of the extra cost, he said, is for a security system for the planned monument.

Frank R. Weathersbee, Anne Arundel County's top prosecutor, spoke at the tribute and made reference to racial tensions in the county. "Those who want to spread the words of hate, they are not welcome here," Weathersbee said.

Some black leaders were critical last year of the acquittal of a white man in the murder of a black teenager. Charges were dropped against four other white men accused of being involved with the teenager's death.

Speeches intermingled with musical acts, including the Spiritual Vibrations and the Sensational Silvertones, brought the audience to its feet.

Some members of the audience had personal memories of the Kings. Dee McCrae, 52, of Bel Air met Coretta Scott King in May 1995. "I remember her being a kind individual," McCrae said. "As I walked away, I remember wishing I had been old enough to be involved."

McCrae said blacks in this country continue to struggle. She said: "Maybe the intensity [of the movement] is not present the way it was, but I think there will always be challenges."

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