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King's Son and Daughter Join Morehouse Students For a "Difficult" March

By ADD SEYMOUR JR.

Mixed emotions ran through Martin Luther King III '79 as he prepared to retrace his father’s funeral procession from Ebenezer Baptist Church to Morehouse College.

King III and his sister, Bernice King, were about to march through the Atlanta streets – complete with two Percheron horses pulling a white, wooden carriage that carried an American cherry coffin – to remember that day when the Dreamer – his dad, Martin Luther King Jr. ’48 -- was laid to rest exactly 40 years ago.

“This effort is to be supportive to the students who commenced this idea,” King III said as his sister stood nearby. “But quite frankly, I don’t know how it’s going to feel to retrace these steps. To some degree, there are emotions out there that make this difficult.”

That wasn’t the intent that Reginald McKinley, Jeremy Cormier and Koree Hood had in mind.

The three Morehouse students formed the core of a group of Atlanta University Center students who went to Jena, La., last summer to protest the legal treatment of six black male high school students in a racially-charged dispute.

Now as the leaders of F.O.C.U.S. (Fostering Our Conscious by Uniting Society), they want to keep the focus on King’s ideas – ideas that young people are embracing.

“We are aware that there are things greater than us that need to be taken care of,” McKinley said. “That’s why Dr. King’s (idea) was lasting because we understood it’s the message that the man carried.”

Marching in lines of five behind the horse drawn carriage (it was the same carriage used when the Rev. James Orange was laid to rest last month), the group of nearly 100 people left Ebenezer Baptist Church, walking down historic Auburn Avenue, along the edges of downtown Atlanta near the Georgia State Capitol chanting and singing songs and carrying signs such as one that read “Unite to Fight War and Racism.”

Many wore suits, ties and dress shoes while other’s colorful attire reflected today’s hip-hop community.

“It feels really good to get to experience what people before went through,” said sophomore Stevon Darling, an accounting major from Nassau, Bahamas. “It’s a walk for a cause.”

“It’s humbling,” added junior Anthony Roberts, an economics major from Richmond, Va. “It’s definitely an inspiring thing to see all these people of different colors and backgrounds come together.”

Onlookers stared as the group walked by. Some clapped. Others blew the horns in their vehicles.

“This is really great,” said Georgia State University student Johnna Szegda as the group passed by her school. “I wish more people were politically active.”

As the group passed by the State Capitol where King’s wife, Coretta Scott King’s body lay in state after her death in 2006, Bernice King noted the irony.

“Notice that we are taking up the entire street,” she said as she walked arm in arm with her brother and Morehouse students. “That normally doesn’t happen, but it is now. It’s a lot like a king is coming through.”

The group made its way down Martin Luther King Jr. Drive to Northside Drive and then to Fair Street as they made their way to the campus.

There President Robert Franklin Jr. ’75 pointed out the importance of the march’s recreation.

“Today we are reminded we can see what he saw,” Franklin said. “In fact, we are being what he saw. It’s up to us to sustain what Dr. King saw.”

For King III, it was a tough day of remembrance that a student movement made easier to deal with.

“For me it was a day that I lost my father,” he said of April 9, 1968. “It’s painful. I lost a loved one. But I’m impressed that these young people have taken a stand in this movement.”

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