Rev. Bernice King joined Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and hip-hop artists Killer Mike and T.I. on Friday night for a news conference to address protesters. King drew on her own trauma as the daughter of a slain father to identify with the anger expressed by many in the crowds, but she also stressed nonviolence as being the best way to bring about true change.
Here are her full comments:
“Good evening everybody and I want to thank the mayor for calling us together. This is a tough moment and if I might take one liberty to just say I’ve obviously been in the place of a daughter … of George … a 6-year-old left without her Daddy who was killed senselessly as my father was assassinated senselessly.
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It sent me on a journey of anger and I fought that demon a long time. This is a moment where people are feeling a lot of stuff right now and are fed up. And as I stand in this moment and I look at my journey, I have to make an appeal to my brothers and sisters because I realize that the only way to get constructive change is through nonviolent means.
You know, a lot of people have been using my father’s words. Sometimes I get a little upset when people do that and co-opt those words and take them out of context, but I realize that he gave his life to this nation. He was a son of this state and of this city born on the soils of this city on Auburn Avenue. But he said to us, ‘riots are the language of the unheard,’ and the part we often miss when people use it is the part about the unheard.
This is a time when we all have to listen. We have to listen to the cries that are coming out of the hearts and the souls of my young brothers and sisters and all of the others that are in the streets of America right now and in our city.
But if there is anything I can say to them as they cry out, to look at these changes, because the changes have to happen. We can’t go back to yesterday. We can’t keep doing things like we’ve been doing it in this nation. We’ve got to deal with systemic racism and white supremacy once and for all. But the only pathway I know to do this is through nonviolent means. It is a proven method.
It did not fail my father and them. As many people who think it failed, it did not fail them because one thing about it, is when you really understand is and really practice it, it brings about the results.
So right now it’s about what is the end goal? The end goal is we want change and we want it now. But change never comes through violence. It is not a solution. Violence in fact creates more problems. It is not a solution. The nonviolent way is the way because the means and the ends have to be consistent. We will never get to the end of justice and equity and true peace —which is not merely the absence of tension but the presence of justice — unless we do it through nonviolent means.
And so I’m just speaking from my heart now and saying, I feel you! Trust me, I feel you. I’ve been close to the edge this time. But I can’t go back to all that I felt inside and the rage that was inside that wanted me to destroy people and destroy lives as Martin Luther King’s daughter because I know that the only way to get at what we really want, and really get it, and not just crumbs, is through nonviolence and peace.
So please, let’s stay focused in that way and remember: everybody is not on the same page. There are people who will try to incite a race war in this country. Let’s not fall into their hands and into their trap. There’s another way.
So in the name of Martin Luther King Jr. from the soils of Atlanta, Georgia and from the 5-year-old girl who lost her daddy to gun violence, senselessly, at the hands of law enforcement, let’s do this the peaceful and nonviolent way to deal with the evils and the conditions of our time.
But I will say, as he said in his ‘I Have a Dream’ speech, if we go back to business as usual we will be in trouble. Let’s not go back to business as usual. Let’s deal with these issues that people are crying out of their soul and their spirit — the conditions that have led to this kind of action.
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