Wednesday, February 08, 2006

In Memory of Coretta Scott King--II

A round up of articles.

New York Times

The funeral was held after three days of services and remembrances for Mrs. King. More than 150,000 lined up to see Mrs. King lying in state in the rotunda of the state Capitol on Saturday and at the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church on Monday.

The official pomp brought faint smiles to the lips of friends who first knew Mrs. King, 78, as a champion of radical causes and later as the courageous widow of a man whom the authorities treated as a troublemaker and a criminal. Some said it was a chance to make up for the fact that Dr. King had not been similarly honored at his death in 1968. Still others said Mrs. King's death on Jan. 30, her system weakened by ovarian cancer, signaled the end of an era.

"I've been stripped," whispered the actress Cicely Tyson, who once played Mrs. King in a mini-series, her hands hovering at the lenses of her sunglasses as if she was going to bury her face in them.

Sitting in a front row seat, she ticked off the names of Shirley Chisholm, Rosa Parks and others who have recently died. "These were the women who were there when I first started, and who kind of took me in. And they're leaving me."

As early as 5 a.m., throngs of people gathered at a nearby shopping mall. When shuttles stopped ferrying people to the church because it was full, many walked, bringing to mind the civil rights marches of Dr. King's era, when men wore suits and ties and women wore dresses and pearl earrings.

"C'mon, Jesus, we're almost at the top of the hill," said Grace King, 45, of Warner Robbins, Ga., who said she was unaccustomed to so much exercise. "But when I think about what they went through, how much they walked, I don't mind walking."

Yuritzy VillaseƱor, an elementary school teacher who came from California for the funeral, was so overcome after viewing the body that she could barely speak. "She gave it all up for you and me to be standing here together," she said.

Hartford Courant (Newsday)

The funeral took on political overtones, as several speakers alluded to the war in Iraq, domestic wiretapping or the slow federal response to Hurricane Katrina, which has uprooted hundreds of thousands of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama residents - most of them black or poor.

The Rev. Joseph Lowery, whose rhyming oratory stirred the crowd to several standing ovations, appeared to aim criticism at Bush, who seemed to shift uncomfortably as he sat behind the podium."We know there were no weapons of mass destruction over there," said Lowery, who with the Rev. King co-founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. "But Coretta knew and we know that there are weapons of mass distraction right here" that have diverted the nation's will and resources from addressing social problems.

Former President Carter brought the audience to its feet, again at Bush's expense, when he mentioned the "secret government wiretapping" of Martin Luther King Jr., a clear reference to the current snooping controversy.

And the megachurch erupted once more - first with gasps, then with applause - when Carter brought up the worst moment in Bush's relationship with the black community.

"The struggle for equal rights is not over," Carter said. "We only have to recall the color of the faces of those in Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi, those who were most devastated by Katrina, to know that there are not yet equal opportunities for all Americans."

Many of those at the church credited Coretta Scott King with having maintained the momentum of the civil rights movement after her husband's 1968 assassination.
Detroit Free Press (AP)

The Rev. Joseph Lowery, who cofounded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., spoke directly to the current administration's foreign and domestic policies. "Our marvelous presidents and governors come to mourn and praise ... but in the morning will words become deeds that meet need?" he asked. The mourners rose to their feet in a roaring applause.

"For war, billions more, but no more for the poor," he said, drawing a roaring standing ovation from the phrase, a takeoff of a lyric from Stevie Wonder's song "A Time to Love." The comments drew head shakes from Bush and his father as they sat behind the pulpit.

At times, the tributes to Coretta Scott King had the unmistakable tenor of political calculation as other speakers questioned -- in subtle and not-so subtle rhetoric -- what the Bush administration was doing to continue the Kings' dream. All the while, the president sat next to first lady Laura Bush directly behind the podium, and in full view of the TV camera.

Carter spoke of how he was indebted politically to Coretta Scott King, and pointed to her peaceful struggle for justice. He noted there was plenty of injustice to overcome and pointed out that most of the victims of Hurricane Katrina were poor and many African American.

Clinton, speaking without a prepared text, drew long affectionate applause from the crowd. He pointed to the personal side of grief of the King family, and the burden on the King children for having to carrying on the legacy of their famous and widely admired parents.

"I don't want us to forget that there's a woman in there, not a symbol," Clinton said, standing behind King's flower-covered casket. "A real woman who lived and breathed and got angry and got hurt and had dreams and disappointments."

Angelou spoke of King as a sister with whom she shared her pain and laughter. For 30 years, she said, they met or sent each other flowers on the date of King's assassination, which also is Angelou's birthday.

"Those of us who have gathered here ... we owe something from this minute on, so this gathering is not just another footnote on the pages of history," Angelou said. "I mean to say I want to see a better world. I mean to say I want to see some peace somewhere," she said to roaring applause.

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