King Commission, AKA sorority pay tribute to Coretta Scott King

Published: Wednesday, January 26, 2011 at 6:38 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 26, 2011 at 6:38 p.m.

A civil rights leader in her own right, Coretta Scott King, the beloved wife of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., was honored and remembered last Tuesday with a talent showcase, prayer, music, praise dancing and a tribute by her Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority sisters.

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Florida Bridgewater-Alford, president of the Gainesville alumni chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc., presided over the program, “Remembering Coretta.” Sunday will mark the fifth anniversary of her death.

Aaron Daye/Staff photographer

Florida Bridgewater-Alford, president of the Gainesville alumni chapter of the sorority, presided over "Remembering Coretta," an observance held at Showers of Blessing Harvest Center as a part of King Celebration 2011 and sponsored by the Martin Luther King Jr. Commission of Florida.

Sunday will mark the fifth anniversary of Coretta Scott King's death at age 79 on Jan. 30, 2006. She was born on April 27, 1927, in Marion, Ala. In conjunction with the 2011 Martin Luther King Jr. Day Services in Atlanta, a tribute in honor of Coretta Scott King was held on Jan. 17 at Ebenezer Baptist Church, where in 1960, Dr. King joined his father, the Rev. Martin Luther King Sr., as co-pastor.

"There is no way to celebrate Martin without celebrating Coretta," said Rodney J. Long, president of the King Commission. "Coretta is a civil rights icon in her own right," Long said. "It's important to honor Coretta so we can tell the whole story."

New at this year's observance was a re-enactment of a "Freedom Concert," which was originally developed by Coretta Scott King to tell the history of the civil rights movement through narrative, singing and poetry.

During an interview with the Academy of Achievement, Museum of Living History, in Washington D.C., Coretta Scott King said that in 1964, she debuted the "Freedom Concert" to raise money for the civil rights cause. (The entire interview can be viewed online at

In her opening remarks, Bridgewater-Alford called Coretta Scott King a woman of substance who dedicated herself to the good of all Americans.

During the program, Apostle Willie King, pastor of Showers of Blessings, delivered the invocation and the King Celebration Choir sang the Negro National Anthem, "Lift Ev'ry Voice." The program also included praise dancing by the Light Dance Ministry and Marie Small, executive director of the King Commission, welcomed those attending.

In a tribute to Coretta Scott King, her AKA sisters lit a candle in her honor and held hands while singing a sorority song. Her daughter, the late Yolanda King, also was remembered with a praise dance.

Phyllis Hilliard, a sorority member, offered the occasion and provided a brief history of the life of Coretta Scott King. Janie Nix-Crews of the King Commission recognized elected officials and members of the clergy.

Last Tuesday, the "Freedom Concert" continued Coretta Scott King's legacy of using narrative and the arts to convey a message. Featured were members of the sorority from the University of Florida chapter. The group included Shayla Davis, Alana Morrell, Sabine Justilien and Joshlyn Clark, who through poetry, song and dance, illustrated the King Celebration 2011 theme of "Renewed Commitment: Acceptance, Justice and Education."

Davis and Justilien recited stanzas of the sorority poem, "Original," which is a tribute to the sorority and its members. Morrell sang "Stand Up for Love," recorded by the now defunct Destiny's Child. Clark recited "Phenomenal Woman," a poem by poet and author Maya Angelou. Davis also performed a praise dance to "Love" by gospel artist Kirk Franklin.

Then, Justilien gave statistics about poor academic performance by low-income students. She said by age 18, just half of the students in low-income communities graduate from college.

In an interview after the program, Small said it was good to see young women expressing their views and concerns. "They took the knowledge of the past and used the ‘Freedom Concert' to carry the legacy," Small said.

"It has been a long road, especially for those who have vivid memories of the civil rights movement," said Long.

"We need to continue to tell the story," Long said in his closing remarks. "If we don't, the story will not be told the way it should be."

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