Bernice King, daughter of the late Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., speaks during the King holiday commemorative service at Ebenezer Baptist Church, where King preached, in Atlanta on Monday. (AP Photo/Branden Camp)

Bernice King, daughter of the late Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., speaks during the King holiday commemorative service at Ebenezer Baptist Church, where King preached, in Atlanta on Monday. (AP Photo/Branden Camp)

King Day highlights transition from Obama to Trump

Associated Press

ATLANTA — As Americans celebrate the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr., civil rights leaders and activists are trying to reconcile the transition from the nation’s first black president to a president-elect still struggling to connect with most non-white voters.

In more than one venue Monday, speakers and attendees expressed reservations about President-elect Donald Trump and his incoming administration, some even raising the specter of the Ku Klux Klan.

“When men no better than Klansmen dressed in suits are being sworn in to office, we cannot be silent,” said Opal Tometi, a Black Lives Matter co-founder, told a crowd in Brooklyn.

King’s daughter offered a less direct message, encouraging 2,000 people at her father’s Atlanta church to work for his vision of love and justice “no matter who is in the White House.”

Bernice King spoke at Ebenezer Baptist hours before her brother, Martin Luther King III, met privately with the president-elect at Trump Tower in New York. The younger King described the meeting as “productive.”

Trump won fewer than 1 out of 10 black voters in November after a campaign of racially charged rhetoric, and tensions have flared anew with his recent criticism of civil rights icon John Lewis, whom the president-elect called “all talk” and “no action.”

Bernice King avoided a detailed critique of Trump, but said the nation has a choice between “chaos and community,” a dichotomy her father preached about. “At the end of the day, the Donald Trumps come and go,” she said, later adding, “We still have to find a way to create … the beloved community.”

The current Ebenezer pastor, the Rev. Raphael Warnock, did not call Trump by name, but praised his predecessor. “Thank you, Barack Obama,” he said. “I’m sad to see you go.”

In South Carolina, speakers at a state Capitol rally said minority voting power has never been more important and some attendees expressed unease about Trump joining forces with Republican congressional majorities.

“It’s going to be different, that’s for sure,” said Diamond Moore, a Benedict College senior who came to the Capitol. “I’m going to give Trump a chance. But I’m also ready to march.”

In New York, Martin Luther King III told reporters that Trump pledged to be a president for all Americans, but King III added “we also have to consistently engage with pressure, public pressure” because “it doesn’t happen automatically.”

Trump did not participate publicly in any Martin Luther King Jr. Day observances. President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama took part in a service project at a shelter in Washington.

Back in Atlanta, Sen. Bernie Sanders brought the Ebenezer assembly to its feet with his reminder that King was not just an advocate for racial equality, but a radical proponent for economic justice — a mission that put him at odds with the political establishment.

“If you think governors and senators and mayors were standing up and saying what a great man Dr. King was, read history, because you are sorely mistaken,” roared Sanders, who invoked the same themes from his failed presidential campaign.

Sanders, who struggled to attract black voters in his Democratic primary fight with Hillary Clinton, recalled King opposing the Vietnam War as exploiting the poor. He also noted King was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee, where he’d gone to rally striking sanitation workers, white and black.

Activist priest Michael Pfleger, himself a self-described radical, built on Sanders’ message with a 45-minute keynote message indicting the nation’s social and economic order, which he said would get worse under Trump.

The Chicago priest said “white hoods” of the Klan “have been replaced by three-piece suits.” He bemoaned high incarceration rates, a “militarized, stop-and-frisk police state,” profligate spending on war and a substandard education system.

Pfleger said many Americans too quickly dismiss violence in poor neighborhoods as the fault of those who live there, when the real culprit is a lack of opportunity and hope. “If you put two lions in a cage and you don’t feed them,” he said, “one will kill the other in the pursuit of survival.”

Warnock, meanwhile, zeroed in on Trump for his treatment of Lewis, now a Georgia congressman who represents most of Atlanta.

Lewis angered Trump when he told NBC’s “Meet the Press” that he views Trump as “illegitimate” because of alleged Russian interference in the campaign. Trump retorted on Twitter that Lewis is “all talk” and said his district is “falling apart” and “crime infested.”

“Anybody who suggests that John Lewis is all talk and no action needs a lesson in American history,” Warnock said, notably declining to say the president-elect’s name.

As a young man, Lewis was arrested and beaten by authorities as he demonstrated for civil and voting rights for black Americans.

Lewis was in Miami at King Day events.

Some Republicans have defended Trump’s criticism of Lewis, arguing it is inappropriate for a congressman to question an incoming president’s legitimacy.

Clara Smith, an Atlanta resident who came Monday to Ebenezer, scoffed at any GOP indignation, remembering that Trump for years questioned whether Obama was a “natural born citizen” as the Constitution requires.

“He carried on with that knowing full well what he was doing” to the first black president, Smith, 66, said.

Elsewhere, residents in Memphis are honoring King with neighborhood clean-up events and a daylong celebration at the National Civil Rights Museum.

Bicyclists in Detroit have marked the day by pedaling to sites connected to a historic visit King made to the city.

Talk to us

More in Local News

Lynnwood
Lynnwood’s car tab fee and utility tax on chopping block again

City Council members will talk about repealing them. If they do, the mayor is prepared to veto their actions.

Most of Compass Health’s clinical employees at the Marysville, Monroe and Snohomish sites will transfer to its Everett locations. (Sue Misao / The Herald)
Lawsuit blames counselor’s ‘unethical’ relationship for Marysville man’s death

Joshua Klick was referred to a counselor at Compass Health. Two years later he was shot and killed.

Marysville
Smokey Point Boulevard stretch closed for crash investigation

The road was closed between 136th Street NE and 152nd Street NE after a possibly fatal collision.

Doug Ewing looks out over a small section of the Snohomish River that he has been keeping clean for the last ten years on Thursday, May 19, 2022, at the Oscar Hoover Water Access Site in Snohomish, Washington. Ewing scours the shorelines and dives into the depths of the river in search of trash left by visitors, and has removed 59 truckloads of litter from the quarter-mile stretch over the past decade. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Diving for trash in Snohomish River, biologist fills 59 pickup beds

At Thomas’ Eddy, Doug Ewing estimates he has collected 3,000 pounds of lead fishing weights. And that’s just one spot.

Wade Brickman works through a call with trainer Lars Coleman Friday afternoon at SNO911 in Everett, Washington on May 20, 2022. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
‘Difference between life and death’: New 911 tech saves vital seconds

Snohomish County is the first in the nation to get the new technology, which reduces delays on emergency calls.

Nuno Taborda
Former Rolls Royce executive to lead Everett aerospace firm

magniX, which builds electric aircraft motors, has hired Nuno Taborda as its next CEO.

Top row (L-R): Rep. Suzan Del Bene, Sen. Keith Wagoner, Pierce County Auditor Julie Anderson, Rep. Rick Larsen. Center (L-R): Tamborine Borrelli, Bob Hagglund. Bottom (L-R): Secretary of State Steve Hobbs, Rep. Kim Schrier, Mark Miloscia, Sen. Patty Murray.
As filing ends, campaigning shifts into a higher gear

The ballot will feature intraparty battles, election deniers and 16 challengers to a longtime U.S. senator.

Everett
Mountlake Terrace woman arrested in fatal Everett motorcycle crash

Desiree Morin is accused of hitting and killing a motorcyclist while high on methamphetamine. Bail was set at $50,000.

Marysville to pay $3.5M to former students for alleged sex abuse

The district settled the lawsuit over incidents from the 1980s. Kurt Hollstein remained employed until June 2021.

Most Read