1440 The moment that everyone has been waiting for: America's first black president, AKA William Jefferson Clinton. To call his reception a standing ovation would be an understatement; this type of thundering applause is generally reserved for divas at opening nights of the Met, or, for presidential nominees at the convention. Which is how many in the church look at him.
"Four more years!" is the chant from the choir and balconies. President Clinton gets real country with the audience—which is why we love him. "Now y'all be quiet now, you might not like what I have to say." He pleads with the audience to be remember the past but work for future generations. "The Census Dept, says they got more middle class black folk in this here county and Montgomery County, Maryland than anywhere in the country. So. What are you going to do about the King Center?" We luv ya, Bill. ;)
1429 President Jimmy Carter speaks and also gets a standing ovation by acknowledging the Democratic Party's debt to black voters. "If it weren't for the Voting Right Act and Civil Rights Act ... it's likely that I never would have left the state of Georgia."
1425 Maya Angelou at the pulpit. "Martin Luther King was assasinated on my birthday. For the past forty years, Coretta and I have called each other on that day, sent cards, or met if we happened to be in the same city. And we'd always talk like we were teenagers. 'Girl, what have you been up to?' Even though we both are into our 7th decades, we always called each other girl. It's a sistah thang."
1414 Lowery mentions CSK's commitment to lgbt rights and HIV/AIDS causes. Smattering of applause.
1410 Okay, we should have known that Rev. Lowery would turn out the service. He is reading from a wonderful poem ("I'm no Maya Angelou") which we won't even destroy by paraphrasing, but he talks about the lives of Coretta, Martin, the nation, 9/11 and "the fact tha we now know there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, but weapons of massive deconstruction here at home, people starving." The man gets a total standing ovation and the congregation is showering praise and admiration. The Clintons, Carters and former President Bush are laughing. President and Laura Bush are also smiling.
1403 Rev. Joseph Lowery at the pulpit.
1354 Rep. John Conyers speaks. His eulogy is poignant and he notes that CSK, MLK and Rosa Parks have all departed. "These are three symbols of humanity's ability to transcend and transform."
1345 Senator Ted Kennedy quotes from the Book of Proverbs. (31:10?) "Where can you find a virtuous woman, her price is far above rubies." He receives rousing applause and a huge standing ovation when he mentions CSK's historic telephone call to JFK and RFK for help when MLK was sentenced to prison in 1959. "My brother Bobby called the judge and thank God the judge saw the light." Hear, hear.
1330 Dorothy Height speaks. She is a living legend, the president of the National Council of Negro Women and the last person to head an organization that worked with MLK. However, she reminds everyone to look to the future: "I've done my part, Coretta did her part, but what are you going to do?"
1325 Jelani Cobb mentions CSK's commitment to lgbt rights. "It often put her at odds with the black church but she wanted all black Americans to accept gay and lesbian rights as human rights."
1311 ATL Mayor Shirley Franklin eulogizes CSK, comparing her to Mary McLeod Bethune, Indira Gandhi and many others.
1302 President George W. "We gather in God's house, in God's presence to honor Coretta Scott King. I come today to offer the sympathy of our entire nation. We knew Coretta in all the seasons of her life." His eulogy is short and sweet, only lasting five minutes.
1301 Bishop Long introduces President Bush.
1239 Dexter, Bernice, Martin Luther III and Yolanda King arrive.
1237 Bill Clinton walks in to thunderous applause. President Bush and the First Lady walk down the aisle and the response is not so muted. Former Presidents George H. Bush and Carter are also here. It's a rare occasion to gather four presidents.
1230 Joseph Lowery, Andrew Young and T.D. Jakes are on stage. Televangelist Dr. Robert H. Schuller joins. Earl Graves is providing commentary with Kyra Phillips and points out several names and faces that she may not know, but she is doing okay.
1205: The funeral has not begun. Kyra Phillips interviews Earl Graves live via sat from NYC and William Jelani Cobb, a history professor at Spelman and pop culture phenom. Strong interview: Graves was on a plane with Robert F. Kennedy when MLK was assasinated. Phillips reminisces about her high school years "in a certain state" and says that black history and the civil rights struggle were never mentioned. She won't say where this was, but "it was an Eastern state." (She doesn't need to say where; she makes her point and it was great disclosure.) A few technical problems: A few minutes in, they lost the video with Graves so we only had his audio. Still, a strong interview.
1125: CNN's Tony Harris interviewed the Bishop T.D. Jakes outside the New Birth Missionary Baptist Church. Bishop Jakes spoke eloquently of the legacy of Coretta Scott King and included her commitment to the lgbt community—a commitment that he opposed.
JAKES: [She touched] everyone ...all persons, all colors, races, creeds ... sexual orientations. It's obvious in the diversity of the people who have come to honor her.
HARRIS: Which also seems to speak to what Dr. King talked about, this idea of a beloved community.
JAKES: Yes it does and she is a remarkable woman to have maintained the mission of her husband. I once talked to her over lunch and asked her how she was able to do what she did. She said, 'I felt called to be his wife as he was called to do what he did.' "
The irony in Jakes' statement is that by including "sexual orientation" as among that "beloved community", he tacitly endorsed gays as deserving the fruits and protections of the civil rights struggle. Or, maybe that was just semantics.
1120 The funeral program is very extensive and will include presidents, politicians, celebrities and activists.