L.A. Civil Rights Pioneer,
Celes King, Honored at Capitol Hill Ceremony
More than 170 government officials, foreign ambassadors, members of Congress
and their aides recognize LA's civil rights advances spearheaded by King
When organizers conceived the agenda for Freedom magazine's 35th Anniversary and Human Rights Leadership Award for 2003, their aim was to spotlight singular human rights achievement on every level — local, national and international. For the magazine's local and state-level Human Rights Leadership Award, nominations began and ended in one city: Los Angeles, where one of the country's most respected community leaders, Celes King III, laid down an unparalleled pattern of minority rights accomplishments for more than five decades.
Top: Accepting Freedom's Human Rights Leadership Award on behalf of the family of late civil rights champion Celes King (inset at left) is god-daughter Charlene Meeks, flanked by presenters, from left to right, Rep. Diane Watson (D-CA); President of the Church of Scientology International Rev. Heber Jentzsch; Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) and Freedom Editor-in-Chief Tom Paquette. Below, Reps Watson and Waters address the gathering.
Mr. King, who passed away on April 12, 2003, was the spark behind such civil liberties initiatives as the Brotherhood Crusade of Los Angeles, the Annual Kingdom Day Parade and the LA Rumor Control Network. As well, his 12 years at the helm of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) in California came at a time when civil disruptions rocked this city and urgency cried out for a voice as reasoned and powerful as this man’s.
Freedom’s annual awards attracted more than 170 guests to the Cannon House Office Building — among them, government officials, foreign ambassadors, members of Congress and their aides — to honor Celes King for his unparalleled grassroots accomplishments in the name of human rights.
Ahead of His Time
In tribute, Church of Scientology International President, Rev. Heber C. Jentzsch narrated a video presentation of the civil rights icon's life, then invited long-time friends, U.S. Congresswomen Diane Watson and Maxine Waters, for their thoughts on Gen. King's contributions to LA and the world.
“Celes King was a man that was well ahead of his time,” said Congresswoman Waters. “He was an activist, he cared about civil rights and human rights and he could not work within the box.”
To this, Congresswoman Watson added, "When we talk about human rights, we’re talking about the leadership of a Celes King."
In accepting Freedom's Human Rights Leadership Award as a representative of the family, Charlene Meeks stated, "On behalf of Mrs. Anita King and the King family, I express our sincere thanks and appreciation for this great honor being bestowed upon our beloved Celes...
“Celes was a living legacy and civil rights pioneer and champion. As L. Ron Hubbard so eloquently said, ‘constant willingness to fight back’ is the price of freedom. And Celes was a true freedom fighter all his life.”
Other human rights leaders recognized by Freedom were U.S. Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who chairs the House Sub-Committee on Middle Eastern Affairs and was the first Hispanic woman elected to Congress; Dr. Sayyid Muhammed Syeed, general secretary of the Islamic Society of North America; and Dr. Inonge Mbikusita-Lewanika, the Zambian Ambassador to the U.S. and one of the most accomplished missionaries for human rights in Africa.
Honoring Human Rights Leadership
Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen was acknowledged for her actions on behalf of minorities including women and children of Afghanistan brutalized by the Taliban, the women and girls of Burma gang-raped by that nation's army and religious minorities facing all forms of persecution.
Dr. Syeed, whose constant contact with human rights abuses in his native Kashmir helped set his remarkable career path, was honored for his leadership of a peace coalition that links 2,000 mosques and Islamic centers around the country with interfaith, governmental and educational institutions.
The evening's final awardee, Ambassador Inonge Mbikusita-Lewanika, was honored with a special introduction by Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) for Dr. Lewanika's tireless efforts throughout Africa to champion the rights of women and children. Working with the African Union*, UNICEF, Women's Development and other groups, she has also been a vocal spokesperson against war, genocide and corruption.
In accepting her award, Dr. Lewanika saluted the women's peace movement throughout Africa. “Whenever there have been conflicts, women have risen and tried to resolve that conflict peacefully,” she stated. “It is my honor and privilege to take this opportunity to commend those women who have worked tirelessly to promote development at the community, national and international level. This award, received on their behalf, should be an encouragement to them.
“They are called nonconventional peace-makers because normally they are not funded; they are not recognized. Their contributions to peace and development remain unwritten and undocumented.
“Yet, as far as development is concerned, many citizens, particularly women in the remote rural and other marginalized areas, continue to contribute more than their share.
“May I invite you this evening, to commit yourselves to peace in your family, at your place of work, in your community, in your nation, and the whole world. For truly, we are in a global village. And the seeds of peace that we plant, future generations will harvest. We owe this to them.”
Freedom's determination, and that of its Human Rights Leadership Awardees, echoes the words of humanitarian L. Ron Hubbard, who wrote: “Human rights must be made a fact, not an idealistic dream.”
By recognizing those who actively work to preserve those rights for our future, the hopes of billions can someday be realized.
Anita Lugo King
1926 - 2003
Perhaps it was part of her heritage that inspired Anita King to advance civil rights for better than a half-century, to bring a change, to create an acceptance of all persons — not based on color but on their simply being part of the human family. Perhaps it was because in her veins flowed the blood of the last Mexican Governor of California Pio Pico. Whatever the inspiration, Anita Lugo King knew that the spirit has no color.
She would marry a man who paved the road of racial equality in this city — Celes King III — and co-found with him California’s Council of Racial Equality (CORE). Anita stood by that man — not behind him, but as his consort sharing in a destiny about to be written, a destiny that saw barriers come down that were once imposed by ignorance and limited mentalities.
When African-Americans could not get legal representation in 1951, when discrimination abounded and prohibitive jail sentencing threatened to further destroy their freedoms, Anita joined her husband Celes in creating the King Bail Bonds Agency. Many blacks were restored their freedom of movement through the work of Anita and Celes King. In 50 years of service Anita and Celes never foreclosed on a single bond.
Anita was a pioneer in founding the California Black Republican Council, and became its first vice president. Former President George Bush Snr appointed her a member of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women.
Above, Anita Lugo King with “her girls,” as she affectionately called them (from left to right): Charlene Meeks, Vice President of the National Center for Strategic Non-Profit Planning and Committee Leadership; Pamela Narcisse, CEO and Founder of The Adelanto Committee, a children's aid organization founded by the late Ms. King; and Marie Guzman Kennedy, community outreach coordinator for the California Contractors License Board.
She stood her own ground, determined to bring change, to reach the minds of the present and the minds of the young who would shape the future. Through all of the great decades of her life, she carried a deep commitment to children. “The children are our future and without them there is no world,” she often stated.
“We must keep our hands on all our children and teach them how to be their own entrepreneurs; [you could call this] self-preservation.”
Children were drawn to her — the kids in gangs, the kids kicked out of schools and, yes, those in schools. She talked to them, heard them out, found the depth of wisdom that had been kicked about in systems designed more for social control than enhancing the native ability of these youth. Anita encouraged that spirit in them that reaches for excellence. She helped, she taught, she listened. She was advisor to the Adelanto Committee Family. Her specialty was advising youth — those looking for answers, those wanting for substance to their dreams.
Anita, Los Angeles is a better place because you lived. And, for this, your friends, your family, your people thank you.
Rev. Heber C. Jentzsch
President Church of Scientology International