Commission remembers Coretta Scott King


JoAnna Duncan, a University of Florida student, was the speaker at the Coretta Scott King observance. Behind her is Dr. Karen Cole-Smith, right, who presided over the program, and the Mount Moriah Male Ensemble Plus 1.

GABRIEL LOPEZ/Special to the Guardian
Published: Thursday, January 31, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 30, 2008 at 4:49 p.m.

Like her husband, Coretta Scott King, the widow of slain civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., dedicated her life to improving the lives of all Americans.

To honor her extraordinary life and to observe the second anniversary of her Jan. 30, 2006, death, nearly 150 men, women and children gathered to pay their respects.

"Remembering Coretta" was held last Wednesday at Mount Moriah Missionary Baptist Church in conjunction with King Celebration 2008 sponsored by the Martin Luther King Jr. Commission of Florida Inc.

"Coretta and Martin were a duo in partnership. They were in the struggle together," said Rodney J. Long, president of the King Commission. "This lady deserves as much recognition as her husband."

Coretta Scott King suffered a stroke and mild heart attack in August 2005 and died on Jan. 30, 2006. She was a civil rights leader in her own right, an author, singer, founder and former president of the King Center in Atlanta. She is a recipient of the Congressional Gold Medal and the Gandhi Peace Prize.

Keynote speaker JoAnna Duncan, a University of Florida student and a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc., called Coretta Scott King a champion of social change in her own right.

"Mrs. King worked tirelessly on the front lines and behind the scenes," said Duncan. "She unselfishly shared her husband with the world."

In a brief biography of Coretta Scott King, Duncan touched on her childhood in Alabama, working in the cotton fields at age 10 and walking three miles to a one-room school house. She said Coretta Scott King earned a degree in voice and violin from the New England Conservatory in Boston. While in Boston, Duncan said Coretta Scott King met King and they were married one year later on June 18, 1953.

"In his (King) darkest hour, she brought the light of hope," said Duncan. "She set her life to a mission set forth by her husband. Her life is a model of what all of us hope to be."

Despite all that has been achieved, Duncan said there is still much work to be done. She said there are men and women who don't vote and have never learned to read and write. Duncan said qualified people are turned away (from jobs) because of the color of their skin.

"It's time for my generation to take ownership of our community," said Duncan. "Struggle is a never-ending process, and freedom is something you earn and win in every generation."

Providing the singing was the Mount Moriah Male Ensemble Plus 1, the Mount Moriah Dance Ministry, and Ivi Crawford who performed a dance in memory of the Kings eldest daughter, Yolanda King, who died on May 15, 2007.

The sisters of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority lit a candle and sang their sorority hymn in honor of Coretta Scott King, an honorary member.

Others attending the celebration also spoke highly of Coretta Scott King.

In her invocation, the Rev. Geraldine Singleton called Coretta Scott King the epitome of womanhood.

Wanda Gallmon, the first lady of Mount Moriah, said Coretta Scott King proved that behind every great man, there's a great woman. Gallmon said she and her husband, the Rev. Dr. F.N. Gallmon, would see Coretta Scott King at Morrison's Cafeteria in Atlanta, and while "other people may not give you the time of day, she was always humble and sweet."

City of Gainesville Commissioner Scherwin Henry said Coretta Scott King was King's closest confidant. "Martin needed her strength and the encouragement of the person that loved him no matter what," said Henry.

Dr. Karen Cole-Smith, director of Santa Fe Community College Outreach and the East Gainesville Initiative, who presided over the event, called Coretta Scott King a pioneer in this country's fight for equality.

The Rev. Milford Lewis Griner, chairman of the Rosa Parks ‘‘Quiet Courage’’ Committee, called Coretta Scott King a woman of courage and conviction. "She believed that the work her husband began shouldn't end with his death in a balcony in Memphis, Tenn.," said Griner.

Evelyn Foxx, vice chairman of the Alachua County NAACP, called Coretta Scott King a great lady who walked beside her husband.

Elder Charles Spidell, president of the Alachua County Ministerial Alliance, said she was a woman of character that loved God.

Saying that everyone has a gift, Cole-Smith urged people to stir up that gift to honor Coretta Scott King.

"She left a legacy of courage for us to follow," said Cole-Smith. "If we stir the gift, wonderful things can happen."

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