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Harry Belafonte's feud with MLK's children

Posted By Les Kinsolving On 10/28/2013 @ 6:25 pm In Commentary,Opinion | No Comments

If only the late-Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. had not been martyred in Tennessee, it would be fascinating to consider how he would have reacted to his friend, Harry Belafonte, suing his children, Dexter, Bernice and Martin Luther King III.

The New York Times, in an extensive report, noted the following:

  • Three documents used to be in Belafonte’s collection of memorabilia, documents he claims were given to him by Dr. King. The King offspring contend that these documents were taken without permission and belong to the estate.

  • Belafonte charged that Dr. King’s children had “drifted away from their father’s values.”
  • “In December 2008, Mr. Belafonte tried to sell the documents at Sotheby’s auction house to raise money, he says, for Barrios Unidos, a charity that works with street gangs. Before the sale could go forward, however, Dr. King’s estate challenged Mr. Belafonte’s ownership of the papers … charging in a letter to Sotheby’s that they are ‘part of a wrongfully acquired collection.’”
  • “Under state law, Sotheby’s faces liability to the actual owner if it releases property to the wrong party, and so has refused to return the documents to Mr. Belafonte until the dispute is settled.”
  • “Mr. Belafonte’s lawyer, Jonathan Abady, said the King estate has never presented evidence that Mr. Belafonte stole the documents. What’s more, the three-year time limit for filing a suit in New York to reclaim them has passed, he argued. … ‘Whatever rights the King children have, they are not entitled to undo the wishes and actions of their parents.’”
  • “Mr. Belafonte’s ties to Dr. King’s children started to fray in 2006, when Mrs. King died, and her children did not invite him to her funeral because of his support for President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela.”

That begs the question: Can Dr. King be realistically imagined as a supporter of such an advocate of pro-Marxist violence as Venezuela’s late dictator?

The Times also reported:

  • “The notes for the Memphis speech – the last words Dr. King put to paper – were left as a bequest to Mr. Belafonte by the close King aide Mr. (Stanley) Levison, who died in 1979, the complaint said.”

  • “Clarence B. Jones, Dr. King’s lawyer and close friend, said the King family had every right to protect its copyright. Still, he said the heirs’ attempt to recover documents from Mr. Belafonte was ‘inconsistent with, and, really, a denigration of, the love and integrity that their dad had for the people who worked with him.’

    “‘Harry Belafonte is not just another person,’ he said.”

That, I can surely agree with.

Harry Belafonte was the person who tried to sell Dr. King documents to Sotheby’s to benefit a charity for street gangs.

That is one reason I would support the King children against Belafonte.

Another reason is because I cannot imagine Dr. King, behind whom I marched into Montgomery, Ala., on the final day of the Selma March, justifying, as an advocate of nonviolence, the career of Venezuela’s Chavez.


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