Power of the press: MLK documentary urges teen to action

Image teens wearing headphones as they create a podcast

When Kelisha Graves sat down to watch “Democracy Now!” no one could have anticipated the effect it would make on the then 15-year-old North Carolina native.

Head shot of Kelisha B. Graves, Ed.D.

Kelisha B. Graves, Ed.D.

It was around Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in January 2006, and the TV show was airing Dr. King’s speeches and clips of his marches. What stood out to Graves were the images of Coretta Scott King steadfastly by her husband’s side.

“We were introduced to Dr. King and his ‘I Have a Dream Speech’ in school but hadn’t learned about Mrs. King,” said Graves, 31. “Seeing her germinated questions: Why didn’t I know about her? And how could I share her impact with others?”

Civil and women’s rights advocate Coretta Scott King founded The King Center in 1968 to educate the world about her husband and encourage younger generations to continue his work. She also:

  • Was a Women’s Strike for Peace delegate to the 17-nation Disarmament Conference in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1962
  • Became the first woman to deliver a class address (in 1968) at Harvard University.
  • Published her memoirs, My Life with Martin Luther King Jr. in 1969, a year after Dr. King’s assassination
  • Championed the federal holiday (celebrated yearly on the third Monday in January) in honor of her husband’s contributions to humanity

Graves became determined to be the first person to publish a scholarly work on Mrs. King and decided that her life’s goal was to become an educator and pursue a teaching track at the college level.

“A couple of weeks later (on January 30, 2006), Mrs. King passed away, and my hopes of one day meeting her were dashed,” Graves said. With the news of Coretta Scott King’s death, there was heightened interest in her life and work.

Still, Graves persevered. In the spring of 2006, she wrote a letter to Yolanda King, telling Dr. and Mrs. King’s oldest daughter about her academic pursuit. A couple of months later, Yolanda King invited Graves and her family to an unforgettable meeting in Atlanta.

The Ford Motor Company Fund originally published Dr. Graves’ story on the Ford Fund website, fordfund.org. Click here to read the full article. 

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