On April 27th, 2013, the King Center unveiled the Coretta Scott King commemorative rose, and I was honored and pleasantly surprised to return home from one of my many trips to find two of the beautiful roses at my home.
The roses were a gift from my friend and HOPE board member Dr. Bernice A. King, CEO of the King Center (a post once held by her mother), and destined for a special planting location in my private park here in Atlanta, Georgia. But as I reflected on the Coretta Scott King commemorative Rose, I also began to reflect on the woman. The woman, as leader, mother, wife, keeper of the King legacy flame. I decided I had to write something in honor of her, on this special day.
Most of the world simply know of Mrs. Coretta Scott King as the wife of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., but she was so much more, and hopefully in short years to come the world will learn more. But for now, know this — if not for Mrs. King there probably would not be the global King legacy that we all know and recognize as one of the most important symbols of moral authority and justice in the world today.
Mrs. King dedicated her life to insuring that her late husband received the national recognition he so rightly deserved. This started with the the creation of the King Center, which she served as CEO of and for, and included major accomplishments, including the adoption of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. national holiday. But we all today seem take these actions of and by Mrs. King a bit for granted. Put aside her 'leadership actions' for the moment, and just ask yourself — how many women would have simply remained unmarried for the remainder of their lives? How many women would have dedicated themselves, totally, to the raising and rearing of her children, and the care and feeding of a legacy for a late husband, no matter how great the man? The answer is 'not many.' It would be impressive if her story stopped there, but actually, it is merely the beginning.
Mrs. King, whom I met numerous times over the years, but remember her most vividly on the annual pilgrimages to Africa with the late Reverend Dr. Leon Sullivan and his African-American American Summits, spoke mostly through (her) action. It was no surprise to see her there, in Africa, as she was always present in movement work; either on the front lines or so very often, behind the scenes providing key support.
Most people do not know that Mrs. King was an accomplished classical singer, and traveled the nation during the civil rights movement raising money for her husband's ongoing work.
Most people do not know that she sometimes conflicted with her loving husband with respect to her role in the broader movement life and work. Dr. King preferred for her to take care of the children, and Mrs. King preferred to take care of the children and stand on the front line of the movement. What a woman.
There is so much to Mrs. King that is not known to the public, but just this window into her life, her loves, her commitments, and her lifetime dedication to "doing good," gives us all a window into her soul.
Mrs. King was a lifelong and dear friend to my personal hero and HOPE Global Spokesman, Ambassador Andrew Young, and this along says a lot about her to me.
If selfless and courageous mother-leaders like this served as the public and recognized role models for this generation of black and brown young ladies — young ladies that so often seem to lack both direction and moral grounding — our future 'hope' would indeed be secure.
On this Mother's Day, 2013, I salute you Mrs. Coretta Scott King. Now, everyone can pay their respect by purchasing this special rose, planted globally in her honor. Planting..hope.