The story below appeared in The Plain Dealer…
Cleveland is a reflection of New Orleans, King says
Saturday, September 10, 2005
Robert L. Smith
Plain Dealer Reporter
The Rev. Bernice King, the youngest daughter of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., said that Clevelanders who look thoughtful and deep will see their own community reflected in the floodwaters of New Orleans.
She said the racial and class divisions exposed by a hurricane also emerge in the housing patterns and the distribution of wealth in Northeast Ohio. She challenged the city to commit itself to achieving greatness by pulling all of its citizens to higher ground.
“It seems to me that [Hurricane] Katrina revealed, once again, that this nation is still divided,” King told a City Club audience Friday. “It seems to me the soul of America is at stake.”
She blamed the disparity on selfishness and materialism and a reluctance to apply Christian values.
King’s appearance kicked off Unity Week, City Hall’s annual series of discussions and events exploring the city’s cultural diversity. The luncheon began with Mayor Jane Campbell presenting the second annual Mosaic Award for Diversity to immigration advocate Richard Herman.
Herman, a Cleveland attorney, said a multicultural work force is essential to the city’s success in a global economy.
The audience stirred as King moved behind the podium. She bears a resemblance to her late father, especially when her voice swells with emotion. She was 5 when he was assassinated, and she knew a difficult life. She once contemplated suicide. Instead, she became the only one of the King children to follow her father into the ministry.
King said her acceptance of the Gospel forced her to confront her own prejudices and to reach out to people of other cultures. She urged Clevelanders to reach across their fears to meet the other side.
“If we’re going to move to a deeper level, and create true diversity, then we’re going to have to get really close,” she said. “There are too many people who have drawn their conclusions from what they see on television.”
King said she sees a lesson for the region in the recent health troubles of her mother, Coretta Scott King, who is recovering from a stroke.
Her mother’s left side is vibrant while her right side is weak, she said. She added that none of the Kings will consider their mother fully healed until the whole of her is well.
“If the suburbs of Cleveland are prosperous, and the urban areas are not, you are on the verge of a stroke,” she said, and the multiracial audience applauded.
“We have to be willing, as my father would say, to stand up for right,” she said. “If we are going to create true unity, that’s what it’s going to take.” The audience gave her a standing ovation.
© 2005 The Plain Dealer
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