January 5, 2004
Yolanda King to speak at Martin Luther King Jr.
By Louise Donahue
Actress and producer Yolanda King, eldest child of Martin Luther King,
will speak January 20 at UCSCs annual convocation honoring her
|Yolanda King's many film and
television roles include portrayals of Rosa Parks and Betty Shabazz,
wife of Malcolm X.
Now in its 20th year, the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Convocation will
be at 7 p.m. in the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium. The event is free and
open to the public.
We felt as though we really needed to have someone special for
the 20th anniversary, said John Holloway, executive director of
Student Life and a member of the selection committee. While the event
has featured many outstanding speakers over the years, Holloway said,
bringing Yolanda King to Santa Cruz will be especially meaningful because
of her memories of her father. We hope this choice will really
resonate with people. Im very excited about the selection.
It was just two weeks after Yolanda King was born in 1955 that Rosa
Parks refused to give up her seat to a white person on the bus in Montgomery,
Alabama. The arrest of Parks prompted a bus boycottled by
then-Montgomery minister Martin Luther Kingand is considered a
pivotal event in the movement that ultimately desegregated the South.
Tensions ran high at the time, and Yolanda was at home when a bomb landed
on the porch of the Kings house in early 1956. No one was injured.
Years later, Yolanda King portrayed Rosa Parks in the NBC-TV film
King, with Paul Winfield and Howard Rollins, one of her many
film and television roles blending her interest in acting with her support
for human rights. Her film credits also include playing Betty Shabazz,
wife of Malcolm X, in the film Death of A Prophet with Morgan
Freeman, and Reena Evers in Ghosts of Mississippi.
Yolanda Kings approach to social change is reminiscent of her
fathers. While it is imperative to actively challenge the
forces that deny human beings their right to a decent life
must also stimulate and alter the hearts and minds of both the privileged
as well as those who have been too long denied, she says on her
web site. Within the arts lies this power.
Yolanda King is coeditor with Elodia Tate of a new book, Open My
Eyes, Open My Soul: Celebrating Our Common Humanity. The book includes
a foreword by her mother, Coretta Scott King, and is a collection of
stories and poems by celebrities, human rights advocates, and writers
from all walks of life, including Maya Angelou, Stevie Wonder, Robert
Kennedy Jr., and Muhammad Ali. Yolanda King said its release, scheduled
to coincide with Martin Luther King's birthday on January 15, is designed
to celebrate the beauty of diversity and encourage a more compassionate
Yolanda King has been involved in a range of theater projects, including
serving for 12 years as co-founding director of the Nucleus theater
group with Attallah Shabazz, the eldest child of Malcolm X and Betty
Shabazzz. Nucleus toured schools, colleges, churches, and communities
around the country with an original production called Stepping Into
In 1990, Yolanda King formed Higher Ground Productions. Its first project
was a multimedia theatrical production celebrating her father. Her one-woman
show--featuring her portrayal of 16 characters--toured the country for
four years. Higher Ground Productions most recent project, Achieving
The Dream, premiered during the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia,
and recently received eight NAACP Theater Award nominations. It is currently
being performed around the country.
King, who received a bachelor's degree in theater and African American
studies from Smith College, and a master's degree in theater from New
York University, has also been a visiting professor in theater at Fordham
University in New York.
Yolanda King serves on the Board of Directors of The Martin Luther
King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change and was the founding director
of the King Centers cultural affairs program. She is a member
of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the Partnership Council
of Habitat for Humanity, a sponsor of the Womens International
League for Peace and Freedom, and holds a lifetime membership in the
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
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