Very surprising developments at the annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. rally in Atlanta. Rev. Bernice A. King, the daughter of the late civil rights icon, explicitly included LGBTs in her speech, reports Dyana Bagby at the GA Voice.
In a passionate, sermon-like speech about building unity, King said she didn't care if people were Hindu, Buddhist, Islamist, were from the North side or the South side, were black or white, were "heterosexual or homosexual, or gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender" — that all people were needed to create unity.
LGBT people who attended the rally said they were shocked that King – who has a long anti-gay past — actually acknowledged the community in a public speech, but said they were also glad because it shows people can evolve. Rev. Maressa Pendermon, a minister with LGBT-inclusive Unity Fellowship Church, said she at first intended to tune out King because of her anti-gay past, but decided to pay attention one more time. ...
"There's always room for growth,” Pendermon said, describing her reaction to King's words. “People grow and people change. Sometimes we don't let them. I wasn't expecting that. And I was already ready to shut down but I challenged myself to listen and I'm glad I listened.”
Craig Washington, a founder of the Bayard Rustin/Audre Lorde breakfast where LGBT activists and allies gather before participating in the MLK march, said he was "surprised and actually excited" by King's words. "It reminded me that people can and do shift attitudes. They do evolve," he said.
Bernice King's new tone could reflect her new position. Last week King was named chief executive officer of the Atlanta-based King Center, which was established by LGBT ally Coretta Scott King "promote and preserve the legacy" of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr..
It remains to be seen if indeed King is "evolving on equality." The Baptist minister has a long history of anti-gay rhetoric and causes. In December 2004, King and her spiritual mentor Bishop Eddie Long led a 25,000 person march against gay rights and marriage equality. King is also quoted as saying that her father "didn't take a bullet" for same-sex marriage rights.
More recently, in May 2011, King resigned as an elder at New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in suburban Atlanta. Her departure came only days after Eddie Long settled five sexual misconduct lawsuits filed by young men. The sexual relationships reportedly began when each of the plaintiffs were around 16 years old.
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