Martin Luther King III, on the 50th anniversary of the assassination of his father, Martin Luther King Jr., said Wednesday the United States continues to live in a culture of violence, but needs to create the culture of nonviolence his father sought.
“We have created and allowed violence to persist, whether it is domestic, gang violence, whether it is one-on-one violence, violence in the corporate communities,” King told CNN’s “New Day,” while appearing with his wife Andrea and daughter Yolanda before ceremonies to honor his father in Memphis.
But, he added, his father would want the United States to create a culture of nonviolence.
“He talked about a revolution of values,” King said. “When we have a revolution of values, we can create a nonviolence community. He lived and died in a nonviolent way. That is what we need to be engaged in, and I’m excited about these movements that exist.”
King said this year, the King family will launch a global initiative toward nonviolence, along with a member of the family of assassinated Indian leader Mahatma Gandhi and a person from the family of late South African President Nelson Mandela.
“We will be launching this initiative to that young people can use nonviolence to resolve conflicts as the students, the high school students, are doing,” he said, referring students from Parkland, Florida, and their push against gun violence following the deadly Feb. 14 shooting at their school.
“We have not seen a movement like this led by high school students for 55 years,” King said noting that in 1963 in Birmingham, Alabama, 3,000 kids were arrested while protesting.
“I’m very excited about the future,” King said. “Even though there seems to be toxicity, we can get past toxicity. We are a great nation, and we can, and we must and we will do better.”
His wife, Andrea, said the civil rights leader would have been “so charged” by all of the movements that are underway, including the teen-led protests against gun violence and the “Me Too” movement.
“There are so many people that are on the move doing wonderful work right now, that I can’t help but think that he would be inspired by what we’re seeing around the nation and the world,” she said.
Their daughter, Yolanda, who is just 9-years-old, made her own mark last month when speaking out against gun violence during the “March for Our Lives” protests in Washington D.C.
She is a year younger than her father was when his own father was assassinated while on a hotel balcony in Memphis on April 4, 1968.
King said Wednesday, as a 10-year-old, his father was “dad to me” and his parents sheltered him and his brother and sister “very well” from the dangers his father faced.
“I can’t say accurately that I consciously knew, but I would say subconsciously there were concerns certainly,” King told CNN. “I’ll give this one example. One of the last trips that he had to Memphis, my brother and I encouraged him don’t go, we want you here, and told us ‘I’ll be back.'”
He and his brother learned while watching the news on television that their father had been murdered.