From the Segregated South to South Lake Tahoe
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. (KOLO) - The title Dr. King is most famously associated with activist Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who was killed for his legendary work to de-segregate the south through nonviolent efforts and end racism.
In South Lake Tahoe, an educator bares the same title and grew up in those very circumstances, his family even hosting Martin Luther King Jr. during the rise of civil rights.
“They could’ve killed us and there would be no repercussions once so ever,” Dr. Jonathan King explains. The distrust and fear amongst minorities and law enforcement runs deep, as he details an unforgettable experience with police. “They put my father in the police car and they put me and my brother in the paddy wagon, I was five years old. And so I will never forget being in a paddy wagon at the age of five years old and being taken to the police station. I was basically harassed by the police and they were telling me they were going to kill me and my brother.”
Dr. Jonathan King is the Vice President of Student Services at Lake Tahoe Community College. He moved here in the Summer of 2018. His hometown is Albany, Georgia. “We were subjected to a lot of racism on a daily basis,” he states.
King’s Father Slater, Uncle C.B and Grandfather Clennon were fantastic influences of courage and strength, knowing that black people deserved better treatment, King recalls, “Many times my father was into good trouble. Meaning that he would basically take me and my older brother on some of those...I would say expeditions, of trying to de-segregate certain places.”
The King men were critical in launching the Albany chapter of the NACCP. During the Fall of 1961, the “Albany Movement” picked up momentum. The goal was to challenge all forms of discrimination. Hundreds of peaceful protesters were locked up and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was called to help the plan gain traction.
“Dr. King stayed at our home and so he blessed our home big time by staying there and he had a press conference. Can you imagine that, he held a press conference in our backyard,” Jonathan says.
By 1964, he was one of the first students to desegregate schools in Albany. “In the churches, walking down there in the face of dogs and cops with guns and somehow we made it and I do think a lot of this was based on our faith,” King tells KOLO 8.
One of his harshest memories is when Jonathan, his brother and mother were delivering food to a local jail after a family friend had been arrested. He was about three years old and his mother Marion was pregnant. She was attacked by officers as Jonathan recalls, “One of them went up to her and knocked her down with his fist and the other one came up behind him and kicked her in the stomach and then she lost consciousness. They could be in their 80s or 90s. Did they ever have any remorse for killing my brother? And I’m not the only one. There are plenty more stories like that. For African Americans we have our issues and our issue is distrust. The big onus is going to be on white people to eradicate their inherent sense of superiority, that’s a lifetime goal.”
This is an uncomfortable trek down memory lane. It’s not just in history books, but in the dreams and thoughts of men and women still living today, King adds joyfully. “Looking at the Black Lives Matter movement, I have so much faith that in the next 20 to 25 years, we’re going to be living in a different country!”
He is hopeful that no one experiences his pain, knowing that a quality education and kindness are infinitely more powerful than hate.
Serving as the Vice President of Student Services at LTCC is a role that brings Dr. Jonathan King great joy. He knows all too well about the times where integrated classrooms were only a dream.
Dr. King was in the first class of black students to de-segregate schools in his hometown of Albany Georgia in 1961 and now he’s an educator.
“When I transferred and went to the white school system it was totally different. I mean everything was brand new, we had brand new books, we had beautiful classrooms. Being in a black school system for six or seven more years, being underprepared...where would I be right now,” King asks.
Education is truly a lifesaver for him. He recalls a conversation with his mother, Marion a few years before her death. “She said, do you know I used to stay up at night and cry because you couldn’t get the same education as a white kid, that really hurt me, to know that she wanted the best for me. What kind of pressure are you going to feel if your parents tell you that you’re superior to Blacks and all Blacks and you get into a classroom and you find out they’re outdoing you in all these different subjects. What’s going to happen when you go to a football field or a basketball court and they’re outdoing you. So that just puts unnecessary pressure on people to think that they have to be superior and they’re not,” King details.
It’s safe to say we can thank Dr. King’s past for fueling his present, as he mentors and counsels the next generation of leaders in his gorgeous community, adding, “The benefit of being able to help someone on a daily basis...it soothes my soul.”
He moved to South Lake Tahoe in the summer of 2018, telling us, “The Latin-x population that came up here and made this their home. I want African Americans to do the very same thing, this is a wonderful place to raise kids and there’s a lot of things to do here.”
For King, it’s a big culture and weather shock to the system moving to South Lake, but nothing can melt his determination. Knowing racism and inequalities still exist, he brought the California Community College program, The Umoja Community to LTCC. “Umoja” is Swahili for unity.
“It (racism) just didn’t come, it was always there, and it still is and I think we have a lot of work to do. That’s one of the reasons I went into education because I feel like it starts from there. I don’t think anybody is born a racist, I think every single kid that comes into the world is pure and what you put in, you get out. Why are the Europeans more open to Blacks than people in the United States, that makes no sense to me, why are people in Canada more open to Blacks than people in their own country...there is a fear and we have to eradicate that fear, “King explains.
Dr. King’s work is far from over and he wants it that way. Whether he helps a student, guides an employee, or causes self-reflection about privilege…It’s the days of marching and hosting sit ins with his family in Georgia during the Civil Rights Movement that allows faith, gratitude and a strong work ethic, to remain at the center of his life.
If you’d like to connect with Dr. King and learn more about his work to help under-represented students transfer to 4-year universities, you can email him directly at: Jking@ltcc.edu.
Here is more information about the Umoja Program at LTCC: http://www.ltcc.edu/campuslife/umoja.php
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