Annual MLK Capitol tribute draws parallels between King, Gandhi

By: - January 14, 2022 6:33 pm

Swati Kulkarni, consulate general of India, Atlanta, describes how Martin Luther King Jr. and Mohandas Gandhi’s philosophy on nonviolent civil disobedience became a catalyst for social change. Kulkarni spoke at Friday’s celebration of King at the Georgia Capitol. Stanley Dunlap/Georgia Recorder

A tribute to Martin Luther King Jr. at the Georgia Capitol Friday spotlighted the connections with fellow civil rights trailblazer Mohandas Gandhi.

King family members, Gov. Brian Kemp, and the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus were among the guests at Georgia’s 37th annual Capitol celebration of King, who would have turned 93 on Saturday.

Keynote speaker Swati Kulkarni, consulate general of India in Atlanta, drew parallels between King and Gandhi’s nonviolent campaigns for racial and social justice.

Gandhi and King never met, but King was inspired by Gandhi, who led India’s independence from British rule and became a model of nonviolent civil disobedience and advocacy for the oppressed.

When King visited India in 1959, the civil rights icon was admired for his leadership for Indians going through similar struggles as Black people in America, said Kulkarni.

Kulkarni is the 2022 recipient of the Andrew J. Young Humanitarian Award for her career as a diplomat and doctor, which included working to prevent discrimination against Indian medics while living in the United Kingdom.

“In India, King is honored and revered by all,” she said. “It is a known phenomenon that members from all ethnic communities in America, look to Dr. King and his wife, at Rosa Parks and his colleagues of the civil rights movement as catalysts of freedom and equality in the land of the free and home of the brave,”  Kulkarni said.

Monday is a national holiday to honor King, an Atlanta native and former pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church.

During Friday’s celebration, civil rights activist Bernard Lafayette, 81, recalled his lifelong friendship with former U.S. Rep. John Lewis, with whom he participated in pivotal civil rights movements in Selma, Alabama, and other parts of the segregated South.

Lafayette, a minister who co-founded the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in 1960, received the lifetime achievement award named after Lewis, a Georgia Democrat who died in 2020.

Lafeyette was also appointed by King to lead the Poor People’s Campaign in 1968.

“We can learn so much from Martin Luther King, but the thing that stuns me more than anything else, he was only in the movement for 12 years and all the things he accomplished in such a short period of time,” Lafayette said. 

Georgia state Sen. Tonya Anderson, a Lithonia Democrat, said that King sought to end many societal ills that are still affecting historically marginalized groups today.

This includes the battle for voting rights in the Georgia Legislature, in federal courts, and in Congress.

“We understand that when Black and brown people vote in mass, democracy wins, freedom wins, justice wins,” Anderson said.

What to know

The Dr. Martin Luther King  Jr. holiday will be celebrated throughout Georgia Monday with marches, services and other events 

Atlanta: 10 a.m.- 1 p.m., The King Center’s 37th annual celebration includes a commemorative service and rally.

Athens: 3 p.m., MLK Parade and Music Festival 

Augusta: 7:30 a.m., silver anniversary of the King Unity Breakfast is set for at the Marriott Hotel at the Convention Center.

Columbus: 8:06 a.m.: MLK virtual breakfast at NewBirthOutreach.com, 6 p.m. candlelight unity processional, 6:40 p.m. celebration service at Prince Hall Masonic Temple

Macon: 8:30 a.m. breakfast at Tubman Museum, 10 a.m. march and assembly at Rosa Parks Square.

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Stanley Dunlap
Stanley Dunlap

Stanley Dunlap has covered government and politics for news outlets in Georgia and Tennessee for the past decade. At The (Macon) Telegraph he told readers about Macon-Bibb County’s challenges implementing its recent consolidation, with a focus on ways the state Legislature determines the fate of local communities. He used open records requests to break a story of a $400 million pension sweetheart deal a county manager steered to a friendly consultant. The Georgia Associated Press Managing Editors named Stanley a finalist for best deadline reporting for his story on the death of Gregg Allman and best beat reporting for explanatory articles on the 2018 Macon-Bibb County budget deliberations. The Tennessee Press Association honored him for his reporting on the disappearance of Holly Bobo, which became a sensational murder case that generated national headlines.

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