Bernice King Speaks at Busboys and Poets

Bernice King Speaks at Busboys and Poets

Daughter of civil rights icons tells her mother’s story.

Bernice King, one of the daughters of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Corretta Scott King, was at Busboys and Poets in Shirlington to discuss a biography about her mother on May 26. The book, titled “Desert Rose: The Life and Legacy of Coretta Scott King,” was written by Coretta Scott King’s only sister, Edythe Scott Bagley, who died shortly after she completed the book.

The title “Desert Rose,” according to Bernice King, explains how her mother was able to succeed despite the conditions that African-Americans faced in the South.

“The title ‘Desert Rose’ was derived from my knowledge of the region and culture which Coretta and I were born and reared. We grew up under the harsh and withering restrictions of the Jim Crow South. Coretta was determined, through education, art, faith, and social activism, to do all she could to create a better life for herself, her family, and people around the world. In so doing, her life was like a rose pushing up from the parched, dry ground and springing forth in a beautiful blossom,” wrote Bagley.

Busboys and Poets tries to “uplift racial and cultural differences” and they “feel very much that is what Mrs. [Coretta Scott] King stood for. We felt that there was a synergy between the title and her story and what we try to promote in our restaurant,” according to its director of marketing and events, Pamela Pinnock.

Coretta Scott King’s desire to make a contribution to help better society was one of the reasons that she fell in love with and later married Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Bernice King said that her mother once told her, “I didn’t just the marry the man that I loved. I married the mission too.” However, that “mission” that they shared was not the civil rights movement, initially, but a desire to help those at the bottom of society.

Coretta Scott King was unsure about how getting married would affect her music career. She believed that since she had obtained an education she should use it.

“She had not planned to marry until her career had been launched and established. Coretta could not envision a minister’s wife pursuing a separate career for herself,” said Bernice King, quoting from the book.

Bagley had written that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said that what he was looking for in a wife “was someone to come home to.” However, Coretta Scott King was so attracted to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. that, her Bagley wrote, that she “was slowly but surely committing herself to the love a of man more than to her love of music.”

Though Coretta Scott King did not pursue her music career after she got married, her knowledge of music would become useful during the civil rights movement. She would organize “freedom concerts” to help raise funds for the movement.

Shortly after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., his wife, established the King Center in Atlanta to create a “living memorial” to him. Bernice King, who is the CEO of the King Center, quoted her mother saying, “Dead monuments don’t do anything.” Bernice King also said that the center allows people to “be educated and trained in” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “philosophy of non-violence.”

Jimmie Harrell of Bowie, Md. said that it was nice to hear about Coretta Scott King since people more often hear about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and not much about Coretta herself and the “strength that she exuded.”

Also at the event was Doris Crenshaw of Montgomery, Ala. Crenshaw said she was the vice president of the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) youth council in Montgomery and a participant in the in the Montgomery Bus Boycott at the age of 12. She also knew Coretta Scott King and had worked for her at many points in her life. She said was pleased with the discussion that Bernice King gave and said it was “very heartfelt” to her.