Guest Commentary 

Coverage of two May deaths illustrates that Tucson has lessons to learn regarding diversity

I was dismayed at the lack of coverage, both locally and nationally, of the death of Yolanda Denise King. King, 51, passed on Tuesday, May 15, in California.

Noted as the first daughter of the civil rights movement, she was the eldest of four children born to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King. King gave much to the continuation of the struggle for civil rights for all people. She found and made her way, even though she had large shoes to fill.

Having a love of theater and acting, Yolanda, or 'Yoki' as she was nicknamed during her childhood, used the stage as a platform to do her part to advance social justice and anti-oppression work. In 1990, King created the California-based Higher Ground Productions. As founder and CEO, she grew her organization and used it to reach many people with messages of hope, determination and self-empowerment. Higher Ground's mission--"To educate, empower and entertain; inspiring individuals to passionately create peace in their own lives, thereby encouraging the same within their families, communities and across the globe"--spoke volumes about the vision.

King met with her staff just a couple of days prior to her death to discuss the particulars of a new production. Her business and love of people, along with her appointment as conservator over her mother's affairs, kept her very busy.

Yolanda and her mother are both acknowledged for being allies in the fight for human rights for same-gender-loving people and ending oppression against all people. She took a different route than her younger sister, the Rev. Bernice King, an anti-gay activist.

I watched and listened for more coverage than the 2 1/2 paragraphs allocated to Ms. King's life that I found in Tucson's local papers. At the same time, I saw loads of coverage on Jerry Falwell, who passed the same day.

Falwell held all of who I am in contempt. He seemed to have little positive to say about blacks, women and those who are same-gender-loving. Yet his life's works were touted as saintly in some circles.

It would almost seem like a follow-up of goodwill for the Tucson media to acknowledge Yolanda King. There has been no follow-up to the forum on the UA campus that addressed an openly bigoted and racist blackface party held by some UA college students over the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend.

When these types of events take place with and among those who are enrolled and participating in institutions of higher learning--going unchallenged--it sends a message that the behavior is OK. The party and King's death, though months apart, speak to the education and healing that need to take place within the city limits.

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