Martin Luther King III is the eldest son of Mrs Coretta Scott King and the great African-American civil rights icon, Dr Martin Luther King Jr. Like his father, Luther King III is a human rights campaigner and community activist. The 55-year-old is currently involved in global humanitarian work and was in Liverpool in October to participate in the annual Slavery Remembrance Day where he gave a rousing speech.
Mercy Eze interviewed him.
A: Well, I have been living my life promoting the message of non-violence. While continuing to play my part in building on the good causes my father started, I never pretend or see myself as a replacement of him. My task has always been to further the work of my father and my mother in services to humanity. I do that through public speaking, teaching, and spreading the message of non-violence; and making the necessary efforts towards communicating the message of peace and unity all over the world. I believe that the more people understand this message, the more they embrace it.
Q: You appear to differ from the views of the leaders of the African Diaspora who are agitating for reparations for slavery. Why?
A: I don’t think that reparations are the ultimate way to go about it. Instead, I think there are a lot of things we have to take time to actually document properly in order to know what reparations are all about, and what necessarily should be the actual context. One form of pursuing reparations will be by cancelling all the huge debts of the African countries from where the slaves came from in the first place. Debt cancellation will also be another road to rebuilding the damage or making up for the damage that had been made. That may not cover everything in totality, but it will be a beginning of the start, and a way of reducing the gap.
Q: Nearly 45 years after your father’s tragic exit, the widely held view is that much of his dream is not fulfilled; for instance, the questions about citizenship, housing, healthcare, etc. What do you say?
A: I certainly do not believe that all my father’s dreams have been fulfilled. Yes, half of them have been fulfilled, but we still fight to eradicate racism and poverty. And we have to work along this line every day. However, I strongly believe we will make it. We will surely overcome it all. One of the most important things is for us to unite against using prejudice to oppress the people.
Q: In recent decades, many African-Americans have been eager to trace their roots back to Africa. But the core issue is that most of them do not even know where they came from, coupled with the lack of an existing “reintegration package” that facilitates their full settlement. What can the Luther King Foundation do in this regard?
A: At the moment, I don’t have a direct answer to that. Actually what I believe should happen is dialogue. As long as we have dialogue, people will be open and will engage in a peaceful process towards a solution. It is not an easy thing. There are many people who cannot understand where they came from. We are on a mission of creating a link for the black communities in the USA to strongly connect with the mother continent.