Atlanta . . . The King Center CEO, Bernice A. King, today issued the following statement on the slaying of Mr. Michael Brown and the violence that has occurred in response to his death:
We are saddened and deeply disturbed by the terrible tragedy that has claimed the life of eighteen-year-old, Michael Brown. Our hearts go out to Michael’s parents, Mrs. Lesley McSpadden and Mr. Michael Brown, Sr., and all those who loved him. We continue to pray for their strength during this time of tremendous grief.
I personally understand and have experienced the devastation of losing loved ones to gun violence. As the world knows, my father, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was assassinated on a balcony in Memphis in the midst of leading a movement for nonviolent social change. I also experienced the pain of losing my paternal grandmother to gun violence when she was murdered in church by a deranged individual. I know first-hand that gun violence, and any violence, for that matter, shatters dreams.
Michael Brown had dreams. He was a recent high school graduate on his way to college. His parents and family had dreams for him and hopes for his future. The community of Ferguson, Missouri had dreams for Michael Brown and has dreams for all of its youth. Now, the dreams for Michael’s future are shattered.
When this happens, the innate human reflex is often to inflict pain and violence on those who we believe caused our pain or on other parties that are linked with our assumed enemies. This is what we see happening in Ferguson, Missouri: the looting, destruction of businesses, and threats of more violence. It is often instinctual to meet violence with violence, contempt with contempt, and rage with rage.
Some have chosen to use my father’s quote, “Violence is the language of the unheard” as an irrational justification for rioting. But, my father taught that violence is always the wrong response. Though we mourn Michael’s death and are outraged by the senseless loss of yet another African-American male, The King Center discourages violence and other destructive acts. Instead, we must unite and channel our collective outrage into constructive nonviolent action; and we must commit ourselves to peaceful and lawful responses, whenever violence emerges, whether on a local or global level.
The universe continually shows us that we cannot respond to instances of harmful behavior and violence with the same behavior, and expect positive results. The violence will not end there and the glimmer of hope for peace and brotherhood diminishes. As my father stated, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness. Only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate. Only love can do that."
This is not alluding to us remaining silent, passive and not seeking justice. On the contrary, while there are contrasting versions concerning the chain of events that led to Michael being killed, The King Center calls for a swift, accurate and transparent process that will provide complete information to Michael’s grieving parents and family members, as well as the millions of Americans who are seeking answers. As we await the complete report on the facts that led to this tragic violence, we must begin the process of healing and reconciliation and “forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline.”
Regretfully, in recent months, we have seen similar incidents and other acts of violence occurring across our nation and throughout the world. Along with instances of violence being experienced by people of color in the United States, global violence is increasing at an alarming rate. Violence continues in Israel and Gaza, minorities in Iraq are experiencing genocidal attacks, civil war has claimed the lives of hundreds of innocent airline passengers in the Ukraine and people are turning against each other in West African nations in response to fears of the spread of Ebola.
Our families, communities, the nation and the world are experiencing explosive violence in these troubled times. It is critical that citizens and organizations across the globe engage in calm, collaborative and thoughtful discourse to identify causes of violence, and craft nonviolent responses, which can lead to healing and reconciliation. My mother, Mrs. Coretta Scott King, often said that my father’s nonviolent leadership philosophy and methods are uniquely designed to create social change and achieve lasting reconciliation. She urged people involved in conflicts worldwide to study Dr. King’s teachings and strive to create a “culture of nonviolence” in their communities.
The King Center was founded by my mother in 1968 to serve as the official living memorial dedicated to educating the world about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s nonviolent leadership philosophy and methods. Our nonviolence instructors and trainers have extensive experience facilitating constructive dialogue between conflicting parties and are available to provide nonviolence education and training upon request. We have conducted nonviolent education programs all across America and in nations as diverse as Columbia, Nigeria, Haiti, Jordan, Israel and South Africa.
As we work towards a better future for our nation and world, let us remember the words of my father: “The choice today is no longer violence or nonviolence, the choice is nonviolence or nonexistence.” By embracing nonviolence as a daily lifestyle, we can begin the process of transforming the ways people resolve conflicts, address global and local violence and lay a new foundation for The Beloved Community.
For more information, please call (404) 526-8944.