Bernice, Dexter, and Martin III - better known many of us in the ATL as "those damn Kings" - are bucking mightily for the Three Horsemen of the Nonviolence Legacy Apocalypse. As I watched Bernice King and Martin Luther King the Third on CNN last night, discussing the latest legal battle between them and their star struck brother Dexter, it seemed like they were playing out a childhood spat, with all of its attendant name calling and chest beating.
Maybe they could get together with Ralph David Abernathy the Third and form a support group for children of the civil rights movement who can't figure out how to do anything worthwhile in their lives. They could call it "For The Children Of Civil Rights Leaders Who Have Considered Committing Political Suicide When Being In Front Of The TV Camera Is Not Enough". Of course, there would be no dues. They would charge them to...charge them to...well, hell, they would charge them to us, even though 99.99999% of us aren't eligible for membership.
Why did they even come out of their caves - oops, I mean high rise condos - to waste six or seven minutes of cable news bandwidth tonight?
As I've said here before, in a previous post, I can't begrudge the King children for making money from their legendary father's image, likeness, and copyrights. In America we sell everything else - why not sell "The Dream"? As much as I agree with Jeffrey Toobin's point of view most of the time, I have to tell him to give his outrage a break on this one. The Kennedy children would have sold their mother's drawers if they figured someone would buy them.
But I can talk trash about how little these three clowns actually do, other than sit around practicing the correct way to pronounce "legacy" so that they can tap that latent feeling in your gut that you get every time you think about the bullet that ended Martin Luther King Jr.'s life. The King Center, their privately managed non-profit piggybank, isn't even a bad joke anymore. It's just bad - badly managed, barely maintained, and poorly integrated into the community in which it sits, a bad dream if there ever was one.
It is the way the King children act like they can have their cake and eat it too that makes you want to tell them to go jump off the Edmund Pettus Bridge.
I think the fallacy of the stance the King children fall back on whenever anyone questions the sincerity of their intentions when they block/freeze/deny access to the Martin Luther King Jr. image is this - they have derived their strategies from the entertainment world. There are full time staffs who work to control the images of Elvis, Ray Charles, Bob Marley, John Lennon and Jimi Hendrix. But they are working with the estates of performers who were strictly in the business of selling themselves to their audiences.
To reduce Martin Luther King Jr.'s life work to the mere detritus that fills file folders and court exhibits is like sticking a copyright symbol after Ghandi©, or Mother Teresa©. Having the right to do something doesn't mean that you should always exercise that right. But these Three Stooges can't see that. All they can see is the money. I know Bernice and Martin the Third said "money isn't an issue" several times, but the only time people are vociferous about proclaiming it isn't the issue is when it is.
Their brother Dexter is at least smart enough to admit the obvious. He wants to get paid. But can be he put his "CEO" fetish aside - he is the CEO of everything King related, even if he hasn't "executived" anything other than conference calls with law firms for years - long enough to realize what every other CEO in the country knows? That cash cows need to be fed and groomed and cared for in order to keep producing their sweet milk? That golden geese sometimes quit laying their precious eggs?
The bad thing is, copyrights last forever if they are properly renewed. The good thing is, a hundred years from now, when this squabbling threesome are dead and gone, they will be largely forgotten.
MLK - even with his ©, thank God - will not be.