DR. ALVEDA CELESTE KING is never alone. She is the niece of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. and daughter of civil rights activist A. D. King and his wife, Naomi Barber King. Within her lies an unbreakable link to her family’s presence and a direct line to God’s love. These deep connections provided Alveda the unwavering strength to live a life of purpose as an activist, author, minister and even a former state representative. This is not to say that she is impervious to challenges of her faith, and as did M.L.K., she has learned to always respond with kindness. Beyond her work as a minister, civil rights and pro-life activist, Alveda is also a best-selling author, accomplished singer-songwriter, consultant to the Africa Humanitarian Fellowship, and has served on the boards and committees of numerous organizations, including the Silent No More Awareness Campaign, Coalition Of African American Pastors, and the Judeo-Christian Coalition For Constitutional Restoration. Throughout it all, she shares her message of faith, love and kindness while carrying forth the remarkable legacy that came before her.
Evangelist King, welcome. You are an artist, an author, broadcast commentator, songwriter, as well as a religious, political and civil rights leader—niece to Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. You are considered a thought leader in all of these areas, which is a lot of ground to cover. I want to start at the beginning. You are the first-born child?
I am the eldest of five children, and I was born in 1951 on January 22nd.
At the time your home was bombed in Birmingham, were you in the home?
We called Birmingham “Bombingham.” I was a young girl at the time, a preteen. It was in 1963, the night before Mother’s Day, and we were in the church parsonage. My dad was a pastor. My mother had just set the dining room table with all of her china. It was incredibly beautiful. Everything fine was displayed because we were going to have a lovely Mother’s Day dinner. She walked to the picture window in the front of the house, and it began to crack. Daddy was in the back of the house because his study was in the master suite. He was writing a sermon. He noticed that the house was too quiet. The street was too quiet. He walked to the front of the house and saw my mother standing in front of the cracked window. He yelled, “We have got to get out of here.” He took her by the hand. By the time I saw them though, she was in his arms. They ran down the hall. The first bomb cracked the window. It was supposed to draw everybody to the front of the house. Then the second bomb went off. They got halfway into the house, and the front half of our home was destroyed. All of the children were in bed except my brother, Al, who was on the couch watching a war movie. So, can you see that? It was so surreal. While bombs were going off on the TV, a real bomb exploded in our home.
A metaphor for?
War and peace. And they do, co-exist. It was a tale of two cities, of course. So here we wanted the peace of God, and we were living in the anarchies of humans. There was something fascinating about that night. I still remember vividly, and talk about it now. While we got out safely, people were angry about what happened to our home and violence erupted. People began rioting, wanting to turn over cars and throw things. I remember my dad standing on the hood of a car, but I don’t remember if he had a megaphone or not. He said, “Stop. Don’t fight. If you have to hit somebody, hit me. I would rather you go home. My children and I are okay, go home.” My daddy stood on that car, calming the riot. He actually did that in the face of what had happened.
What differentiated your uncle from everyone else?
Reverend Martin Luther King Jr., we have to remember, was a preacher. He believed so much in the love of God. The love of Jesus. I believe he was a modern-day John, the Revelator, because the apostle John went to Patmos Island and wrote the Book of Revelation. He constantly talked about love. My daddy talked about the miracles of Christ, and granddaddy spoke about taking care of the least of these. But Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke about the love of God. It has been recorded that there was only one time that people remembered him stepping out of that position. It happened to also have been the day that he died when he had an argument with someone. Typically, he answered everything with the love of God.
Can you help me understand what distinguishes that type of greatness?
I have a favorite story about my uncle (ML), my daddy (Reverend AD King—AD), and granddaddy (Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Senior—Sr.).
AD and Senior both were feisty, but they all loved the Lord and could preach. Martin Luther King Jr. was honestly different. They traveled around the country, preaching together. One time, Daddy and Uncle ML were traveling together. Daddy was driving and ML was in the passenger seat. They passed a car whose bright lights were on and were blinding the oncoming traffic. The person was supposed to dim the bright lights, and they did not. So, my daddy said, “Brother, I am going to shine our lights back in their face.” ML responded, “Brother, I don’t believe that’s the way we should respond. We should do to them what we want them to do to us. And that has been written.” That particular story explains the two of them together and their relationship. Daddy was the champion, the guardian, and the protector of his brother. ML was more focused on the ideas of we have to love, and we have to forgive. They all believed in loving. I do too, but ML was always like that, always.
You are the only person that I know that actually knew Reverend Martin Luther king Jr. Can you fill in the blank? What made him exceptional was_____?
Martin Luther King Jr. lived what he preached. When he was challenged, he would take a deep breath and then he “fixed” himself and did what he taught others to do. He centered himself, constantly. I was able to grow up around him. I could see him do that. I enjoyed his sermons. Sometimes you needed a dictionary to understand some of his words because he was very educated; his speech was so refined. There was one speech in particular, it may have been a sermon, called the “Death of Evil by the Seashore.” It was about Jesus and the disciples. Jesus ministered to them as he went out in the boat and spoke to the storm. It represented what man has to grapple with and how Jesus taught us to respond. The love of God was what made him different. Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. was able to live it, walk it and teach it. I am a product of those teachings. Not only from him, but from his dad, who was tough, but tenderhearted. It is recorded and written that when his children were born, my granddaddy was there in the room with his wife. He cried with her as she gave birth. That was Daddy King. My mother would say to my dad that he was just like his daddy, and I was just like him. “He’ll give you his last dime,” she would say, “and you are going to give away everything.” I said, “Well, mom, I have got to give some more.” That was my dad’s philosophy and how we all grew up. I honestly saw the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. over and over, respond in love. He really did.
Was that a gift from God or was that willful discipline?
It is a combination of living a life of service and having willful discipline and doing what God says. The Bible says we all have a measure of faith. I believe there is a measure of love that comes to each of us, but it takes discipline as well. As I explain, I saw Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. practice that discipline with the God-given gift to be able to love others. There is a scripture, “Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.” So obviously Christ was in the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr., but what was Martin Luther Jr. going to do with Christ? And what was Christ going to do with him?
Do you believe that every person has a gift, and that gift has to be honed in order to be excellent at something?
There’s a wonderful scripture, “Stir up the gift of God that is inside of you.” I ask that question all the time. People even ask me, “What is your gift?” I respond, “I try to put it all together and serve God because I can’t pick. Is it writing songs? Is it singing? Is it acting? Is it politics? Is it being pro-life? I can’t pick any one gift.” I like to believe there is something within me that will take what is needed at the moment from the Lord and use it for his will. So, do I think that every person has a gift? I sure do. Maybe we have more than one gift, and we need to learn to let that real gift be accepting the will of God in our lives and acting accordingly.
Do you hear God audibly, the voice of God? Or is it more a sensation or feeling?
If I may tell you about an experience that I had when I was a young woman in my twenties. I was not a born-again Christian. That happened in 1983. This was in the seventies. I had just left the nightclub, and I was driving along alone in my car. I had been drinking and should not have been driving. Ironically, when I left the nightclub, they had offered me assistance because they knew I was impaired, but I had told the people at the club that my car was like a horse and knew how to make its way home. I drove into a storm with lightning and thunder all around me. I turned onto my street – almost to my house. There was a big clap of lightning and thunder. Boom. An electrical, live wire fell across my car, and I could see the sparks. Back then cars had a lot of metal. I really heard a voice, honest to goodness. It was so startling because there was nobody in the car with me. The voice said, “Stay. Be still and know that I am God.” I sat, my foot was on the brake, not the gas. I sat there for a long, long time, long enough to become sober. The emergency responders came and moved the wire off the car. “Ma’am are you all, right?” “Yes. I’m okay,” I said. “If you had touched anything on this car, you’d be dead. You’d be fried,” they responded. That was the only time I have heard an audible voice, and I really heard it. People have said because you were just drunk, you imagined it. No, I heard it. However, I constantly experience the presence of the Lord. When I am in a jam or when it is time to praise the Lord, I will become aware of certain scriptures. I will be aware that some will say, “No, you don’t need to do that.” Whether you turn to the right or to the left, I will hear a voice and it will say, “Walk with it.” I just hear various scriptures in my mind.
God talks you through?
The word of God, through scripture, talks to me.
Is your life predestined?
I believe that from the beginning of time, God knew, knows, and will know everything. I believe I am God’s plan. I don’t think about predestination a lot because I really don’t necessarily understand it. I also don’t believe that we are reincarnated, but even if I were reincarnated, I believe that this moment is the only moment that counts.
Do you feel the presence of your father?
I dream about my father, my grandfather, my Pastor, Alan McNair, who founded Believers Bible Christian Church. I dream about them. Occasionally, I dream about my grandmother and different people who have crossed over. I am very aware. I keep so many pictures of my family, those who are here and those who are gone, that sometimes I feel as though they are still here. I really do. I don’t talk to my dad or my granddaddy or Pastor. I actually talk to God, but I’m aware that those who have gone on before me are in a crowd of heavenly witnesses. I’m very aware that they are there.
Your father, Pastor AD King, passed away in a questionable drowning. Do you feel his presence?
Often, I do feel dad’s presence. I have his DNA, so I would feel his presence wouldn’t I? And my mom too. She is still here. So absolutely, I am very aware of my daddy all the time. I wrote a song named Is That You? Walk on Water. It is about my daddy who rescued me out of the ocean. I was a young girl, and we were at a retreat with the church. I thought I could swim because daddy could swim. In reality, I could doggie paddle, but I couldn’t swim. So, I jumped out into the waves while my Daddy was on the shore. A wave picked me up, and I screamed “Daddy.” He cut through the waves and picked me up. I said, “Where is Jesus? You said he could walk on water.” I have always been very aware of his presence. I think about my dad all the time.
Your mother was described as a remarkably strong woman. I read that your mother contemplated abortion on your conception, and your grandfather talked her out of it. Tell me about that.
My mom and dad were high school sweethearts, and they were going to marry when they finished college. Her mother let her go on a date with my daddy, which is why I say that people who are not married should avoid dates because when you have physical intimacy, babies can come. So, they were engaged, her mother let her go out, and I was conceived. My mother didn’t want to birth a baby at that time. They were not married, but they were engaged. She was going to go to this place she learned about in a flyer that was being passed out in the schools, in the Negro community, by the Birth Control League. They were changing their name to Planned Parenthood and could not advertise abortion. It was illegal, but they had a procedure for “undisclosed female ailments,” and you could come and see them and have this procedure, and then talk. In other words, you could come and get a DNC, not a back-alley coat hanger.
You could come and get a DNC. So, my mother took that flyer to her mother. Her mother, big Mama Bessie said, “No, this doesn’t look right. Let’s go talk to our Pastor, Martin Luther King, Senior (who was going to be momma’s father-in-law). He said, “Nanny. (that was her nickname). They are lying to you. That is not a lump of flesh. That is my granddaughter. I saw her in a dream three years ago. She has bright skin and bright red hair, and she is going to bless many people.” I was born looking exactly like that. Mom and dad were married by then. They had five children, and I was the first. Later in my life, before I was born again, I had two secret abortions, and I miscarried because of a botched abortion. All that has happened to me, but from birth or before birth, I was going to be a voice for life, with a testimony that I was rescued from abortion.
When and why did you decide that you were going to follow a different path in life?
I was born into a Christian family, and I went to church all the time. When I was five years old, I was water baptized. I sang in the choir, went to Bible study and attended Christian activities for many, many years until 1983. I guess I thought I was a Christian. I did believe that Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary, died on the cross and rose again. But it never occurred to me that he died on the cross for my sins and rose again and is in heaven and is my high priest until 1983. I had been a state legislator and made multiple appearances in movies and films, then I went to work at a college for the next 19 years. There was a woman who worked at that college who changed my life. She had a big red binder and inside it there was a book that had a sword on it. I didn’t know what the book was and then one day, she opened it.
People said, “Don’t talk to her. She’s a religious fanatic.” At that time, I was the kind of person, if you told me not to do something, that’s the first thing I was going to do. So, I walked up to her and asked her, “Why do people say don’t talk to you?” She didn’t answer that question. She said, “Alveda, who is Jesus?” I said, he rose again. I remember one of the songs I learned when I was a child. She asked me again, “Alveda, who is Jesus?” And I began to say what I had learned in Sunday school about Jesus. Not good enough. She asked me a third time. I got angry. I remember putting my hand on my hip and looking at her. “Well, I guess he’s God.” And then I said, “No, I know he’s God.” Every question I asked her, she would open that book and find the answer in the Bible. I asked her about the Aborigines and if they were going to hell. “No,” she said, “because they never heard of Jesus.” I think it was in Colossians, “from the beginning of time, they would know enrollments.” And the last scripture, Romans 10:9, “Alveda, you know Jesus is God. If you believe in your heart and confess with your mouth that God raised Jesus from the dead, you’ll be saved.” She led me in that prayer, and my whole life changed. It was like a light bulb came on. And from that day on, I am focused on “Yes, God. No devil. Yes, God. No devil.” I have been doing that since 1983.
You have how many children?
I have six living children, two were aborted, and I had a miscarriage. So, six. Three were already born before 83 and three, three came after. I was like night and day for them, my older children are very worldly, current. With the younger children, I stopped cursing. I used to drink and enjoy bourbon and those kinds of things. The three younger ones are not accustomed to that lady. The three older ones were. We talk about that all the time now, and they’ll tease me. We all are very, very close as a family. My children tell me everything. They have told me about their experiences, and I would go into my room and put my fist in my mouth and just bite. One night, before the cell phones, when we still had the Captain Kirk flip phone, my daughter called and asked, “Are you praying for me?” I said, “Actually I am. I woke up on the side of the bed and prayed.” She asked me if I would stop because she was not able to have any fun. Three of my children are attorneys. One is in medical school. One just got her master’s from Harvard. The youngest one has not finished college. He has a full scholarship to a Bible school, but he is married and doing other things right now. They have all done well. But the main thing about it is that they all love the Lord. All six children love the Lord.
You have “stood against the wind” on many issues. Advocating a pro-life stance to supporting President Trump, how do you persevere against the shame and the humiliation people cast toward you? Where do you get your strength?
For 17 years before I was a born-again Christian, and afterwards, I have been very, very aware that God is real, and God is present. I believe that we can all find that place in the Lord, but we have to want that place in the Lord. What helps me to stand against adversity? Going on 40 years’ experience now and as the Bible Christian Church teaches, getting to know God through the Bible. I never feel alone because I can go to a secret place in God through Psalm 91. Whether I’m in a crowd, in a storm, it doesn’t matter. I can say in the face of adversity, “I know my Redeemer lives.”
Recently, one of my children asked me to ask their father to forgive me. My first thought was, he needs to ask me to forgive him. Then, I got quiet because it was a sincere request. I stayed up all night Googling, literally, how you forgive somebody who you feel did something to you. I couldn’t find a really good answer. I wanted to write an article on it, but I got so sleepy and tired. Then I said, “Holy Spirit, how do you do this?” And the Holy Spirit chuckled, not audibly, but I felt the chuckle. “I wondered if you’d ask me.” The answer was, “you could have been kinder.” So, I wrote a letter. I said, “I want to apologize to you. Please forgive me. I could have been kinder.” I did publish that in a blog. Many people responded to the post saying, “Yes, I could have been kinder.” It is something we can all do. I hide in the secret place of the Lord, Psalm 91. And I seek kindness.
That is a gift.
It is. It really is. Praise God, praise God, praise God. What could I have done Lord, that was different? You could have been kinder.
Even when you’ve been terribly wronged, you still show a little bit of grace?
It’s scary, but you can actually do it.
How do you insulate yourself from people that are not kind, in politics?
As a state legislator in Georgia in the 1970s, I was a Democrat in the House of Representatives. Across the aisle were the Republicans. Everybody was divided, but I had friends on both sides, and we wrote bills together. People asked me, “How can you do that?” I said, “I see people, and we can agree on certain things. In the political realm, I started doing that. I moved on from being a Democrat, to an Independent, to a Republican, back to an Independent. Then I became a Frederick Douglass Republican. I work across the aisles. I always have. I still do. I think that’s very important. I also see people. I am not colorblind either. Your hair is beautiful. I see your golden rings, your lovely hair. What color is your face? I can see your skin. It’s a beautiful color. Hold your hand up. You do see it. You see my skin. Do you actually see my skin? You see it. You feel the warmth in my hand. I feel it in yours. We see the color of our skin. To say, “I am color blind is not true.” Jesus gives sight to the blind. However, I recognize that it is your ethnicity, not your race. We are the human race. Turn your arm over, see the little veins that look a little blue. We are not blind. We can see color, but we do not judge each other by color. We see each other as one blood and one human race. In me, you should be able to see Africa, Ireland and Native America.
Tell me about the book you co-authored, We’re Not Colorblind.
We’re Not Colorblind is a book that I wrote with my good friend, Ginger Howard, a Caucasian lady and a Southern Belle. We met while working together politically, attending the same event. One day, we were both on a platform at the Martin Luther King Center in Atlanta, Georgia. We were the only conservatives on the panel and were being hit really, really, really hard. I remember scrunching down at my seat, taking deep breaths and God helping me. After the event, Ginger went home. Not long after, I had a dream that we were supposed to write a book together. In the book, We’re Not Colorblind, we talk to each other openly about our different perspectives. In the end, we are one blood in one human race. We said, open your eyes, and you will see.
One of your qualities is that you are not judgmental. You judge no one?
Not at all.
Where does that come from?
God has forgiven me so much I can’t afford to judge anybody else.
I’m still working out my own salvation in fear and trembling. I just don’t. I see all human beings in need of a savior. All of us…Buddhist or Hindu or Muslim or Jewish or Christian. We are all human beings. John 3:16 doesn’t say, “God, so loved the Jews, the Christians, the Mormons, the Muslims…” The Bible says, “For God so loved the world…” We are the world. Every time I want to judge somebody, God reminds me of what I used to be. And he says, you used to be like that.
What vocation brings you the most joy?
My most rewarding vocation is being an evangelist, a Christian evangelist, after that a pro-life advocate.
Can you remediate decisions that are not—in your opinion—in alignment with the Bible?
I don’t know that I can remediate my poor decisions, but God can do anything. Everything that we do can be under the blood of Jesus. I still live that way today. Recently, I did something. I was under pressure and under stress, and I said something that shocked everybody. It could have been something I should not have said. I went and got quiet. Before I even took another step past what I had said, the Holy Spirit began to talk to me and reorganize and restructure. Christ, of course, is our remediation—remains our remediation on the blood of Jesus. I understand that. But then Paul says, so should we just run around and sin because we know that we’re going to be forgiven? No, absolutely not. We still have to work very, very hard.
You are a truth seeker and an outspoken advocate for the pro-life movement. How do you know that your truth is more profound than a pro-choice truth?
When I see a 4D ultrasound, 3D, or even the initial ultrasounds. When I saw the last baby I was about to abort, and I saw this little black and white picture of that heart, I knew it was the truth because I can see. I know that you and I are sisters, regardless of your skin color, which I can see, but we’re sisters. So, I, when I say truth, I know truth, and the goal is not only to know, to seek truth and find it, but then to share it, truth or love, both equal. I am the way the truth and the life. God is love. I mean, that is God.
How do you listen to the voice of God, and do you ever not listen?
Rarely do I not listen. I have learned that when I don’t listen, it does not work for me. I have a deck on my home, and I walk out on it and get quiet and hear the birds. When the weather’s right, I can hear the rippling water in the little pond outside. I just stand there and listen. There are very few people who I allow in my home now, and most people close to me know I do not open my house because God lives there. My children and grandchildren know that.
What is your legacy and your life all about?
I believe, as human beings, when we understand that we belong in the heart of God, we are humanity. There is a word that you just mentioned, “legacy.” Most people do not understand. Legacy is so clear in the Bible. This family was gifted to do this. This family was gifted to do that. This group could do one thing. That group could do something else. It is very clear in America that we have lost a sense of legacy. Over our 400 plus years, we stopped remembering our origins, though some ethnic communities know more than others. The Black community really lost legacy because we could not know who our parents and grandparents were. I am blessed because I know our origins are in Africa, Ireland and Native America. But we are an unusual family. Legacy as human beings and connecting with natural families is important. But the lasting legacy of belonging to God should be the goal of every human being.
What is your focus every day?
Every day I remember that God so loved the world that he gave us Jesus and whoever believes in Jesus will not perish. That’s a burning truth in my heart and in my life. I am very conscious of that particular part of my life and my mission every day.
When I ask you questions, you always go to a Bible verse. Pre-1983, give yourself one piece of advice. Just one.
Stop girl. Trust the Lord with all your heart. Don’t lean into your own understanding. It is going to get you in trouble. That’s exactly what I’d say to younger me, easily.
And what piece of advice would you give to any other woman?
God loves you. God loves you because everybody needs love. We all seek love. I do that all the time. I just say, God loves you.
You believe this?
I really believe it with all my heart. People will be lost, but that is not what God wants.
Is there an Evangelist King message to share?
Each person living has a purpose. Don’t abort your purpose. Keep faith, keep hope and keep love. Don’t give up, keep moving forward. That was fabulous, Karen. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you so much.
I saw your tears a couple of times which is how I know when people hear the message.
Thank you, the enlightened Evangelist King.