The Martin Luther King Jr. Center — the place named for the legacy of the guy pushing for nonviolent social change — poured cold water on the upcoming MLK celebration from Atlanta gays by appointing King’s anti-gay daughter, Bernice, as its new CEO.
Bernice King is no friend to the gays. She was an elder at Bishop Eddie Long’s New Birth Missionary Baptist Church until she wasn’t and is better known for walking along the streets of downtown Atlanta with Long in a 2004 march supporting a proposed state ban on same-sex marriage. At least she didn’t compare gay marriage to genocide, like her cousin Alveda. Yes ma’am, it’s true.
As CEO of the center, King (photo) will join brothers Dexter Scott King and Martin Luther King III, who has also voiced opposition to same-sex marriages. The move gives Bernice King control of the day-to-day operations of the center while leaving Dexter as board chair and Martin as president.
King and his wife, Coretta Scott King, included gay people in their inner circle, including Bayard Rustin, who helped organize the 1963 March on Washington. Gay Atlantan Lynn Cothren was Mrs. King’s personal assistant for more than 20 years. After her husband died, Mrs. King continued to support HIV/AIDS fundraisers and awareness campaigns. In 2005, she came out in favor of gay marriage during a speech.
The center announced the appointment of Bernice King on Monday, a week ahead of the city’s annual celebration of MLK’s birthday and legacy. The official celebration has a history of anti-gay tones; expect that not to change with Bernice King at the helm. In 2009, the Annual Commemorative Service at Ebenezer Baptist Church featured Rev. Rick Warren, an anti-gay megachurch leader whose participation prompted a boisterous protest. Last year, the commemoration included gay Rabbi Josh Lesser as the only openly gay speaker though he later talked of the frosty reception he and LGBT issues received.
Bernice King is also one of several grand marshals for the MLK March & Rally on Monday.
So much for the beloved community that MLK envisioned.
But the MLK holiday does include a healthy dose of gay events. The annual Rustin/Lorde Breakfast is set for Monday at St. Mark United Methodist Church. The event attracts a diverse crowd of LGBT and gay-friendly activists.
Also Monday, LGBT activist Paulina Helm-Hernandez, co-director of Southerners On New Ground, will serve as the Honorary LGBT Marshal and speaker for the rally after the MLK parade.
On Saturday, “Brother Outsider: The Life of Bayard Rustin” and “The Edge of Each Others Battles: The Vision of Audre Lorde” will be screened at the Rush Center.