Poverty, past linked to Native Americans focus on MLK Day

Poverty, past linked to Native Americans focus on MLK Day
Martin Luther King III, US Secretary of the Interior and others wait to place a wreath during an event at the Martin Luther King Memorial on the National Mall January 15, 2018 in Washington, DC. (AFP)
Updated 15 January 2018

Poverty, past linked to Native Americans focus on MLK Day

Poverty, past linked to Native Americans focus on MLK Day

ALBUQUERQUE: At gatherings across the nation Monday, activists, residents and teachers are honoring the late civil rights leader ahead of the 50th anniversary of his assassination in Memphis, Tennessee.
Anti-poverty activists in Albuquerque and a groundbreaking Cherokee Nation declaration about the tribe’s role in promoting equality after years of fighting to exclude descendants of slaves from its rolls are part of the focus of Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebrations.
In Atlanta, King’s daughter, the Rev. Bernice King, will be the keynote speaker at a commemorative service honoring her father at Ebenezer Baptist Church, where he once preached.
The day will take on a renewed meaning for descendants of black slaves owned by the Cherokee Nation but whose tribal citizenship was in flux until recently, despite a treaty guaranteeing rights equal to native Cherokees.
The tribe — one of the country’s largest — is recognizing the King holiday for the first time this year with calls to service and speeches in which the tribe plans to confront its past. King’s writings spoke of injustices against Native Americans and colonization, but Cherokee Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr. said the tribe had its own form of internal oppression and dispossession.
“The time is now to deal with it and talk about it,” said Hoskin. “It’s been a positive thing for our country to reconcile that during Dr. King’s era, and it’s going to be a positive thing for Cherokee to talk about that history as part of reconciling our history with slavery.”
Such talk from tribal officials would have been surprising before a federal court ruled last year that the descendants of former slaves, known as Freedmen, had the same rights to tribal citizenship, voting, health care and housing as blood-line Cherokees.
One descendant of Freedmen, Rodslen Brown-King, said her mother was able to vote as a Cherokee for the first and only time recently. Other relatives died before getting the benefits that come with tribal citizenship, including a 34-year-old nephew with stomach cancer, she said.
“He was waiting on this decision,” said Brown-King, of Fort Gibson, Oklahoma. “It’s just a lot of struggle, a lot of up and down trauma in our lives. It’s exciting to know we are coming together and moving forward in this.”
Derrick Reed, a city councilman in Muskogee, Oklahoma, and director of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center there, said Monday’s events will be the first attended by the Cherokee Nation in honor of the holiday. Principal Chief Bill John Baker is scheduled to speak at an after-party the tribe is sponsoring, and Hoskin is serving breakfast earlier in the day.
“All the freedmen are finally relieved to be recognized, and their story itself has been a civil rights struggle,” Reed said. “It’s definitely a turning point in the history of the relationship with the Freedmen Indians as well as the message the tribe is sending to the nation.”
Meanwhile, Martin Luther King Jr.’s eldest son is calling out President Donald Trump following accusations the president used a vulgarity to describe African countries during a meeting last week and expressed a preference for immigrants from countries like Norway.
Martin Luther King III spoke in Washington on Monday, saying: “When a president insists that our nation needs more citizens from white states like Norway, I don’t even think we need to spend any time even talking about what it says and what it is.”
He says: “We got to find a way to work on this man’s heart.”
Referring to former Alabama Gov. George Wallace, King added: “George Wallace was a staunch racist and we worked on his heart and ultimately George Wallace transformed.”
for his part, LeBron James said honoring the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. is more important than ever because “we’re trying to be divided right now by somebody.”
James was referring to President Trump, whom the Cavaliers star has openly criticized in the past. James spoke Monday as he and his teammates prepared to host Golden State in one 11 NBA games played on the national holiday for the civil rights leader.
James credited the league for playing games as a tribute “for a man who stood for more than himself. He actually gave up his life for the betterment of all of us to be able to live in a free world and for us to be able to have a voice, for us to go out and be free no matter your skin color, no matter who you are. ... He took a bullet for all of us.”