Alveda King, niece of celebrated civil rights activist Martin Luther King, Jr., may be a logical choice for a Black History Month speaker considering her family name and background. She is an activist who speaks about racism and her search for equal rights.
King is also a known anti-abortion advocate who has spoken at events such as conservative pundit Glenn Beck’s Restoring Honor rally. On her website, KingForAmerica.com, her biography labels her explicitly as a “Pro-Life Warrior.” King has also been outspoken against gay marriage, is a Christian minister and has been a proponent for prayer in schools and other public spaces.
It is those viewpoints that have caused 20-some students to criticize the university’s decision and organize a protest against King’s presence on campus.
A Facebook event created by IPFW student Nicole Meier sprung up last week, planning a protest of King’s speech.
“Alveda King is infamous for her anti-gay rights, anti-choice and anti-Planned Parenthood tactics,” read the event description. The protest will be silent.
“I do not believe that marginalizing gay students and women who have had abortions or may be seeking an abortion is the best way to ‘maintain a positive connection and working relationship between the university and diverse groups,’” said Meier, quoting the Office of Diversity and Multicultural Affairs (ODMA) mission statement.
King was invited to IPFW by Urban Life Matters and ODMA. According to the event description, she “will deliver an address that focuses on her continual fight for Civil Rights.” ODMA provided the venue for the event.
Co-sponsor Urban Life Matters is an Indianapolis-based organization which provides speakers to churches and youth groups.
On its website, it’s described as “a ministry dedicated to promoting sexual purity, positive alternatives to abortion, and post-abortion healing in the urban community.” Their pro-life stance is of particular prevalence in their mission and activities.
Sally Williams, director of Urban Life Matters, said that it was her organization that reached out to IPFW to bring King to campus.
“We promote the value of life in the urban communities,” said Williams about Urban Life Matters. She said ODMA was “excited” to collaborate.
As for their choice of King as the speaker, Williams said, “What better role model?”
“I don’t think civil rights is a controversy,” said Chris Douse, director of ODMA, about King’s visit.
Who Has Rights?
Gay rights and whether they are civil rights has been a controversy, particularly with King. In 2010, at a rally for the National Organization for Marriage, she said, “I don’t know about you, but I’m not ready to be extinct, and none of us wants to be. So we don’t want genocide. We don’t want to destroy the sacred institution of marriage.”
Coretta Scott King, Martin Luther King, Jr.’s widow, on the other hand, referred to gay rights as civil rights.
“I do not believe someone can call themselves a civil rights activist and be anti-gay rights or anti-reproductive rights,” said Meier.
“Race, according to her, is only an issue of complexion, yet sexuality is of something entirely different, and gay rights are not civil rights, according to Ms. King,” Meier added. “This kind of misunderstanding shouldn’t be tolerated. And at the very core of my being I know it to be wrong.”
She went on to say that kind of speech contributes the suicide of LGBTQ teens across the nation.
Regardless of the debate on King’s views, Douse said that her presence is valuable at IPFW.
“You want to encourage dialogue,” he said. “You’re providing people with lively debate and conversation.”
That dialogue is part of the reason Meier has decided to protest the event.
“I think, first and foremost, it is important to protest as to bring awareness to important issues that aren’t in the political forefront, especially here at IPFW. I hope to open students, faculty and community member’s eyes to the effect that people like Alveda King have on vulnerable, minority groups such as LGBTQ students,” she said.
What’s the Focus?
While Urban Life Matters said that King “may” speak about subjects such as gay marriage and abortion during her visit, the planned event is simply about her strive for civil rights.
“Although I feel it would be a bit disingenuous for her not to touch upon these points, as that is what she represents, I would be pleased to see that she refrained from hateful, hurtful speech,” Meier said.
ODMA remained firm that King’s visit is not an issue.
“This is a community collaboration with an organization. Period … We’re objective. We’re not taking sides,” Douse added.
King isn’t the first controversial speaker the university has brought to campus, this year. The first lecture in the Omnibus Series was Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, who drew a small crowd of protesters who were against his right-to-work policies. Daniels is also known for his conservative policies, including his signature on a bill that would defund Indiana Planned Parenthood.
“But of course, Alveda King has a right to speak on campus,” Meier said. “But in my opinion it matters how she gets here. She should be invited by appropriate parties, and I do not believe that ODMA is the appropriate party.”
Urban Life Matters is also sponsoring another event this month, where they will be showing the anti-abortion movie “Maafa 21: Black Genocide in 21st Century America.” The event is free and will be shown in the Allen County Public Library’s meeting room A on Feb. 28.