Driving straight from The Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change in Atlanta on Thursday, Bernice King brought along a caravan of youth, staff and chaperones to visit some of the pivotal places in Montgomery that are a part of her father’s legacy.
The significance of bringing students from the Summer Nonviolence Youth Camp to the Capital City was not lost on her.
“It brings joy to my heart to be able to bring them here into this real place,” said King, the youngest daughter of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
The group walked the route of Martin Luther King Jr. from the parsonage where he rested his head at night, to the church he shepherded, as well as the barber shop where he got his hair cut.
Quiara Sharp, an eighth-grade student at Coretta Scott King Young Women’s Leadership Academy in Atlanta, was thrilled to be a part of such an experience.
“It’s amazing to see, because we didn’t have this (history) when we were little and we didn’t know anything about this,” she said. “It’s a great privilege and honor.”
After the bus unloaded in front of the Dexter Avenue King Parsonage, the group visited the Harris house, which once housed Freedom Riders, Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church, the Malden Barber Shop and King’s first office.
Bernice King’s camp is dedicated to the legacy of her father and to training today’s youth in the philosophy of nonviolence, following the six “Kingrian” steps of equality, forgiveness, hope, peace, understanding and unity.
The campers were hosted by the Southern Youth Leadership Development Institute, organized in December by director Doris Crenshaw. She said the nonprofit group works to promote nonviolence, teaching youth that even though they are young, they still have the power to make a difference in their communities.
A young leader herself, at age 12 Crenshaw was the vice president of the NAACP’s Youth Council and personally worked with Rosa Parks.
“If you look at the civil rights movement, the people involved were young people,” she said. “Youth are idealists; they have the energy, they have the population and once the youth are interested in something, things start happening.”
Crenshaw teaches youth in the SYLDI program, who range in age from 12-18, the importance of civic engagement through their participation at school board meetings, legislative sessions and county commission meetings.
Together, Crenshaw and Bernice King hope to unite the youngsters from Atlanta and Montgomery in a group effort to nurture leaders, foster change and create safer, less violent environments in their schools and communities.
“My hope is that we develop an army of young people,” King said. “These will be the young people that will bring about a more just and humane society.”