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Address By Coretta Scott King
Circles Of Hope Dinner-Metropolitan Community Foundation
San Francisco, California - November 22, 2002

It is a great honor to receive this award from the Metropolitan Community Foundation, which has been in the forefront of the movement to protect and advance human rights and social justice for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people of all races. But I am especially honored to receive this award from an organization which has not only addressed the immediate concerns of its core constituency, but has also reached out to help other groups who suffer the ravages of injustice and poverty.

And I want to take a moment to salute the Metropolitan Community Foundation for the great work you have been doing to serve the impoverished, hungary and homeless citizens of San Francisco. I understand that you are feeding, sheltering and providing needed services for some 20,000 women, children and men every year. This work is critically important during economic downturns, when increasing numbers of disadvantaged people need resources which are often inadequate in the best of times. I just wish that more cities had programs like yours to help address the hardships of poverty, hunger and homelessness.

By reaching out to economically deprived sisters and brothers, you are not only doing God's work and helping people in need; you are also ennobling your cause and affirming your humanity.

As my husband, Martin Luther King, Jr. said, we are all "tied in a single garment of destiny," ... "caught in an inescapable network of mutuality. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. I can never be what i ought to be until you are what you ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of all reality."

By feeding the hungry, housing the homeless and serving the poor, you are setting an inspiring example of caring and compassion for other human rights groups.

There is also a very practical reason why people involved in different human rights struggles should support each other and work together. And that reason is that the whole of us united makes us stronger than the sum of our parts. This principle of synergy is eloquently summed up in the equation, "one plus one equals three." In other words, there are things we can achieve together that we can't accomplish separately.

All organizations working for human rights and social justice should now work more closely together in coalition for social change. We have to work harder for the broader vision of the compassionate and caring society that demands decent living standards for all citizens. Every advancement in human rights that helps an oppressed group really benefits everybody because it elevates the standard of compassion and decency for the entire society.

With the 2002 election behind us, we must now turn our full attention to building an active coalition which can help bring impact no matter which party controls the political institutions. Politicians can be persuaded to change their positions, particularly when they know they can be replaced. Yes, we have to register and turnout more voters in the next election, but we also have to do a better job od educating people about the need for the reforms we are seeking.

The 'interrelated reality' my husband spoke of also applies to the legislative agenda we seek in coalitions of mutually supporting groups. We need to pass comprehensive hate crimes legislation. But, to create a genuinely nonviolent society, we also should work for stronger gun control and for an end to the death penalty. And we need more proactive education against bigotry and intolerance in America's schools, so young people are not seduced by the poisonous propaganda of hate groups.

Most importantly of all, if we want to create a more nonviolent society, we should be very concerned about our country getting involved in war. A war with Iraq will increase anti-American sentiment, create more terrorists and drain as much as two hundred billion taxpayer dollars, which should be invested in human development here in America.

And here I want to take a moment to congratulate Representative Barbara Lee for her courageous stand as the only member of Congress to vote against waging war in the mideast. I'm very proud of you, Representative Lee, and I think your constituents are much-blessed to have the benefit of your leadership.

Instead of trading blood for oil, we need to develop alternative sources of energy and mass rail transit, so we don't have to depend on mideast oil for our energy needs. And we can create plenty of needed jobs in meeting this challenge.

The interrelated reality of our legislative concerns also applies to the struggle against homophobia. We need the Employee Non-Discrimination Act to protect people from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender. But to create a society free from bigotry, as well as violence, we also need to protect and strengthen affirmative action. In addition, we need more funding for diversity education, so young people are inoculated against the toxic viruses of racism, sexism and homophobia before they enter the workforce.

It is particularly sad to me when I hear black people making homophobic comments or undermining the human rights of people because of their sexual orientation. One young man was recently beaten with a baseball bat at Morehouse college, allegedly as result of another student's homophobia. If this can happen in Martin Luther King, Jr's alma mater, which takes justifiable pride in preparing students for leadership in all areas, it can happen anywhere.

African Americans have suffered for too long because of prejudice and bigotry to be parroting the rhetoric of the Ku Klux Klan and other hate groups who bash people because of their sexual orientation. Gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people are entitled to the same respect and dignity as every other citizen.

The civil and human rights movement that I believe in thrives on unity and inclusion, not division and exclusion. All of us who oppose discrimination and support equal rights should stand together to resist every attempt to restrict civil and human rights in this country.

Interrelated reality of our legislative concerns applies with a burning urgency to the global crisis of aids. We need full funding for aids research, prevention and treatment. To eradicate AIDS, we must give our medical researchers and scientists all of the support they need to find the cure. But we must first and foremost cure our own hearts of the fear and ignorance that leads to ostracism of people with HIV and AIDS. The real shame falls not on the people with AIDS, but on those who would deny their humanity. AIDS thrives on ignorance, bigotry and fear. In fact, I have no doubt that homophobia has worsened and prolonged the AIDS crisis. We don't have to search for the cure for ignorance, because we know that it is education.

The AIDS pandemic is an interrelated part of the failure of our national health care system. We've got at least 44 million people with no health insurance whatsoever, and millions more with health care insurance that will not protect them against a catastrophic illness. I would appeal to everyone who is concerned about AIDS to also work for national health care reform that covers every person for every illness.

It seems to me that true homeland security ought to be more about providing health care for every citizen and less about reshuffling bureaucratic agencies and undermining our civil liberties. True homeland security should be about protection of liberties. True homeland security should be about protection of pension assets for retired people. Genuine homeland security should also be about gun control, protecting americans against domestic hate crimes and getting serious about reducing the pollution of our air ad water. And homeland security should mean feeding the hungry, housing the homeless and making sure there is quality education for every child and job at a decent wage for everyone who wants and needs one. That's how we make our country safe and secure for all citizens.

And so, I accept this Circles of Hope Award with a renewed commitment to address these challenges and to work for a society where all citizens can live together in justice, equality and peace. I accept this award as a reaffirmation of my commitment to everything I can to help make our democracy more inclusive, because none of us can be free until all of us are free. And I accept this award with heartfelt appreciation for my lesbian and gay, bisexual and transgendered sisters and brothers who are working for human rights and social progress for people of all races.

In closing, I just want to say that I'm proud to stand with all of you as your sister in a great new American coalition for freedom and human rights. With this faith and this commitment, we will create the beloved community of Martin Luther King, Jr's dream, where all people can live together in a spirit of trust and understanding, harmony, love and peace.

Thank you and god bless you all.

Copyright © Coretta Scott King, November 22, 2002.



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