June 19, 2011
One hundred and fifty years later, the Dred Scott decision still steams Alveda King.
Slaves, according to the 1857 Supreme Court ruling, weren’t citizens. Instead, according to the court, they were property.
But a second Supreme Court decision — the 1973 Roe v. Wade case that legalized abortion — riles her just as much. Talking at a Juneteenth celebration on Sunday in Fountain’s John Metcalfe Park, King said the ruling paved the way for a different form of slavery — one that has endured long past the Emancipation Proclamation.
“Civil rights begins with human rights,” said King, the niece of Martin Luther King Jr. “From conception until natural death, for everybody.
“Now it’s unbelievable that Dred Scott and womb babies have been told they’re not human beings.”
Breaking into a cappella gospel, King led an impromptu worship service Sunday at the Juneteenth Caribbean Heritage Festival, where King implored people to remember the holiday’s meaning of freedom, amid songs and sermons.
“If your light won’t shine, please don’t put out mine,” sang King, beginning her 50-minute speech.
“Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine,” replied the audience, their voices resounding from the pavilion.
Juneteenth marks the June 19, 1865 landing of Union soldiers in Galveston, Texas to free the slaves, who had been held nearly 2 1/2 years past the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, which is widely regarded as the end of slavery in the United States.
Sunday’s Juneteenth celebration stood out from the 19 previous celebrations organized by James Tucker, a local civil rights activist, as it was meant to also honor National Caribbean Heritage Month.
While many slaves in the 16th and 17th centuries were shipped from Africa to the southern colonies in America, many more were brought to South America and the Caribbean.
“We’re all connected, and most people don’t know their history,” Tucker said.
And in channeling that same message of unity, King preached a sermon focused on abortion that drew largely from her experience.
King had two abortions and a miscarriage roughly 30 years ago. But she has since dedicated much of her public life to anti-abortion causes.
At one point Sunday, King told of recently convincing three of her children to avoid abortions. She now has three grandchildren that are “so much fun.”
There are parallels, King said, between those decisions by her children, and slavery.
“He can’t say or she can’t say whether she’s going to live or die,” King said. “We got to really just rethink this thing.”