Unfortunately, the children of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.are embroiled in a battle over the ownership of his 1964 Nobel Peace Prize and “traveling” Bible.
Martin Luther King III and Dexter King want to sell their father’s prized items, however, Bernice King is currently in control of the property. Bernice King joined Roland Martin on the Tom Joyner Morning Show to give her side of the legal dispute. [Read the entire interview below]
TOM JOYNER: From Washington, D.C., ROLAND MARTIN:, good morning.
ROLAND MARTIN: Hey, Tom, Sybil and Damon. Hey, let me give a shout out to Spellman, I did their wellness summit on Thursday and I had a great time there. Dr. Tatum is doing a phenomenal job leading that wellness initiative at Spellman.
And Tom, on the same day I was there Bernice King CEO of the King Center had a news conference where she stood with pastors, family members and others, as it related to this tet-a-tet if you will, this legal battle she’s having, with her brothers Dexter King as well MLK the third with regards to their father’s Nobel Peace Prize as well as his travelling bible. She joins us right now on the Tom Joyner Morning Show. Bernice, good morning.
BERNICE KING: Good morning, everybody.
ROLAND MARTIN: Always a pleasure talking with you. In that news conference you, first of all, you released a statement on Tuesday that was a very strongly worded 536 statement, then you held a news conference where you told everyone that you were disassociating yourself from your brothers. Explain what does that actually mean.
BERNICE KING: That was never a word that I used. In fact I said; please do not group me with my brothers. That’s the word the media used. I could never disassociate myself. They’re my family. I love both of my brothers dearly, but in all of the years that I’ve seen articles, blogs and everything else, I think people have unfairly categorized me. Let me just say that. And so it was my attempt to say; look, you know, look at this for what this is. I had to stand on principle on this particular issue. This is not about a fight to me, but these are very sacred bible, and you just don’t sell them. They should not be bought. You don’t sell the bible, everybody knows that. The Nobel Peace Prize, as I stood there, with their movement that was standing with me as well. And they received it as a trustee. And so that’s the point that I was trying to make. Particularly in this instance. And I know the media thinks that we’re fighting over money. I have never followed the money, I never will. I work at the King Center every day, I’m not on salary. That’s my service to my parent’s legacy. So it pains me when I’m unfairly characterized.
ROLAND MARTIN: Have you had any conversation with your two brothers since your news conference? Since your press release that was sent out last week? And if so what did they say?
BERNICE KING: No, I haven’t.
TOM JOYNER: Your parents, you think that they would want you to keep these items?
BERNICE KING: I believe. I believe so.
ROLAND MARTIN: Bernice, what also jumps out is that there’s obviously been this back and forth, a lawsuit that was filed on the 50th anniversary march, anniversary of the march, August 28th, as well tried to oust you from the King Center. I mean, does all of this back and forth, spending more time focused on legal matters, take away from the King Center work and what it is you’re trying and your brothers should be accomplishing when it comes to your father’s legacy or your mother’s legacy?
BERNICE KING: You know, I think it makes it challenging, but again, we’re all individuals. And I have to keep staying on the wall me and my journey with God taught me to do. If it’s their decision and choice to go into court then I have no choice but to stand firm in the position that I take. People should know we don’t just go to court. I mean there have been dialogue and discussions behind the scenes over the year. Why it got to this point is the same question I ask God every morning; why are we here? I ask the same question people ask, but at the same time I recognize and realize that I’m an individual that it’s supportive that I always stand on principle and on what I believe is right and I believe it’s just.
TOM JOYNER: How much money do you think you can sell these items for?
SYBIL WILKES: Or do they think they could get?
ROLAND MARTIN: Or do they think they could get?
BERNICE KING: I have no earthly idea. I don’t even start to think about it, to be honest with you, because in my personal opinion they are priceless.
ROLAND MARTIN: Bernice, today marks the 50th anniversary that your father received the Nobel Peace Prize in December 1964. He said then that he received it on behalf of the movement. And when you were first notified; was it via a discussion? Was it via a letter? When MLK III told you that this was the interest, how did that discussion even take place?
BERNICE KING: There was a notice for a meeting.
ROLAND MARTIN: So you’d not had an interaction with those two where you actually talked about physically this whole issue?
BERNICE KING: No, no, there was an actual meeting; there was a meeting that took place.
SYBIL WILKES: And so at the meeting was it …
BERNICE KING: And I voted against it.
ROLAND MARTIN: And for the people who are listening, for the three of you are the remaining shareholders, your sister Yolanda has passed away. And so that was a vote taken two to one to actually put these items up for sale.
BERNICE KING: Exactly. And the meeting notice, in fact, came to me on the King holiday. From my siblings.
ROLAND MARTIN: I got to ask you that, because that is troubling for a lot of people who are associates of your father, that you would get this notice on the day of the King holiday, that the attorneys for your brothers would file a lawsuit back in August on the actual anniversary of the March on Washington. These things are not, to be perfectly honest …
SYBIL WILKES: They can’t be coincidental.
ROLAND MARTIN: … that they’re not coincidental.
BERNICE KING: Well, I agree, but I mean these are questions that I think they should answer. Obviously I’m not them so I can’t get into their heads, so I have no idea.
ROLAND MARTIN: I talked to your brother, MLK the third, at the Trumpet Awards and he was, he hit me up saying that people should not be reporting on things and not talking to people. And I said, well, I’ve called you in the past, I’ve texted you and you don’t respond to things. Is it also bothersome that frankly you are the one out here who is having to speak on these issues and being questioned, and the two of them are silent?
BERNICE KING: Um, I don’t know if it’s bothersome, but I think, you know, everybody has a right to their voice, and, you know, it was more important to me in this particular incidence, my father said; our lives begin to end the day we remain silent about what matters. And, you know, in this particular instance I thought this was a matter that mattered. You know, that I needed to be able to stay in a position that baring that we are Dr. King’s children, that if this were the situation in my father’s life, those items are not something that he would sell or even allow someone to buy from him.
ROLAND MARTIN: And these are not the first items, Bernice. These are not the first items, you know. The City of Atlanta paid $32 million dollars for other King artifacts, so it’s not like, well, those items haven’t been sold, but you say these are different.
BERNICE KING: These are very different. My father sold his own words in the marketplace by writing a book. So these are definitely different. These are sacred items.
SYBIL WILKES: What do you think your father would say right now? What do you think your father would say? Or your mom at this point?
BERNICE KING: I think my father would be extremely grieved period because he gave away every dime of the Nobel Peace Prize that he received. He held the prize, the medal. And Preachers don’t sell their bible. No one, a family doesn’t sell their bible.
ROLAND MARTIN: BERNICE KING:, CEO of the King Center, we certainly appreciate you joining us here on the Tom Joyner Morning Show.
BERNICE KING: Thank you.
SYBIL WILKES: Good luck to you.
BERNICE KING: Thank you.
SYBIL WILKES: God bless you.
TOM JOYNER: Yeah.
SYBIL WILKES: That’s so sad.
TOM JOYNER: It’s so embarrassing for all of us. I can only think about how she feels.
SYBIL WILKES: It’s sad.
TOM JOYNER: It is.
SYBIL WILKES: Very sad.