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Tariana Turia on Coretta Scott King 's Death

2 February 2006

Tariana Turia on Coretta Scott King 's Death

Tariana Turia, Co-leader, Maori Party

"The Civil Rights Movement has lost a leader, and people of colour throughout the world will mourn the loss of a person who has been a beacon of hope to us all" said Tariana Turia, Maori Party Co-leader, upon hearing the news of the death of Coretta Scott King, wife of Dr. Martin Luther King Jnr.

Mrs King's life, and indeed her death as well, parallel that of another great woman of colour, Rosa Parks who in 1955 was the spark that launched the Black Civil Rights Movement in America, when she refused to give up her seat on a public bus to a white man. Rosa Parks died last year, and Mrs King's passing is another loss in that link to a proud history.

Because of Rosa Parks' stand, the King family took up the challenge of co-ordinating, organising and leading hundreds of thousands of Americans against the racist policies of the day. Mrs King demonstrated active leadership in both public and private life, raising four children as well as being a powerful advocate within the Civil Rights Movement.

"She was a poet, a mother, a wife, a scholar, and a freedom fighter," said Mr Harawira. "She joined the battle against apartheid in South Africa, she spoke out against poverty in Latin America and she was a tireless advocate of peace, non-violence, tolerance, courage and conviction". "And when Dr Martin Luther King was killed by an assassin in 1968, Ms King and her children continued the dream set down on the historic March on Washington".

"Just two months after his funeral, Mrs King spoke passionately at a Poor People's Campaign at the Lincoln Memorial - the site of Martin Luther King's "I have a dream' speech. She asked American women to unite, "to fight the three great evils of racism, poverty and war". A fight which is just as relevant today as it was forty years ago".

"Mrs King has become an icon for African-American people - and indeed for all people who believe in social justice" said Mrs Turia. "Her work to establish the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Non-violent Social Change in 1969 -and to establish King Day as a national holiday, reminds us all of their commitment to peace". "Mrs King exemplied the qualities of perseverance, of compassion, of dedicated commitment to a greater cause, a cause that is ultimately about making the world a better place for our children and mokopuna yet to come".

"The Black Civil Rights Movement in America had a huge appeal for Maori," said Mrs Turia, "because their journey was just like ours - an emerging struggle for justice and for freedom." "The contribution made by Ms. Coretta Scott King and Dr. Martin Luther King have had a deep and long-lasting impact. The Maori Party salutes Mrs King's legacy, and pledges to continue the dream laid down by her husband for equality for all".

ENDS

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