Author Topic: Belafonte Sues Heirs of Martin Luther King Jr.  (Read 3954 times)

Offline Reginald Hudlin

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Belafonte Sues Heirs of Martin Luther King Jr.
« on: October 16, 2013, 12:59:51 am »

October 15, 2013
Belafonte Sues Heirs of Martin Luther King Jr.
By JAMES C. McKINLEY Jr.
Harry Belafonte is 86, an age that tends to focus the mind on putting one’s affairs in order. And that is why, Mr. Belafonte says, he has filed a lawsuit in federal court against the three surviving children of one of his closest friends: the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

At issue are three documents that used to be in Mr. Belafonte’s collection of memorabilia, along with other photos and letters on the walls of his apartment, chronicling his long friendship with Dr. King. Mr. Belafonte says the papers were given to him by Dr. King himself; by his widow, Coretta Scott King; and by Dr. King’s close aide Stanley Levison.

Dr. King’s heirs — Dexter, Bernice and Martin Luther King III — have said the documents were taken without permission and belong to the estate.

Mr. Belafonte, who often supported the King family financially during the civil rights struggle, said the dispute pains him. He said in his view, Dr. King’s children had drifted away from their father’s values. “The papers are symbolic,” he said. “It’s really about what happened to the children, and I feel that somewhere, in this one area, I really failed Martin.”

One of the documents is a three-page outline for Dr. King’s 1967 speech “The Casualties of the War in Vietnam,” written on a legal pad in Mr. Belafonte’s New York apartment. The second is a letter of condolence from President Lyndon B. Johnson to Mrs. King. The third is an envelope Dr. King had in his pocket the day he was assassinated in 1968. On it he had scribbled notes for a speech he was to give in Memphis.

In December 2008, Mr. Belafonte tried to sell the documents at Sotheby’s auction house to raise money, he says, for Barrios Unidos, a charity that works with street gangs. Before the sale could go forward, however, Dr. King’s estate challenged Mr. Belafonte’s ownership of the papers that same month, charging in a letter to Sotheby’s that they are “part of a wrongfully acquired collection.”

Since then, the documents have been in limbo, sitting in the auction house’s storage vault while attempts to settle the dispute out of court have failed. Under state law, Sotheby’s faces liability to the actual owner if it releases property to the wrong party, and so has refused to return the documents to Mr. Belafonte until the dispute is settled.

On Tuesday, Mr. Belafonte filed papers in federal court in Manhattan asking a judge to declare him the rightful owner.

William B. Hill, a lawyer for the King estate, did not return telephone calls seeking comment. A spokeswoman for Bernice King, Bunnie Jackson-Ransom, said Ms. King had no comment on Mr. Belafonte’s suit. Messages left for the spokesman at the King Center in Atlanta, where Ms. King is chief executive, got no response. The King family has a history of suing to protect its right to Dr. King’s works and images, and they have also aggressively sought to recover Dr. King’s documents.

In 1986, Mr. King’s widow sued Boston University in an effort to regain control of about 83,000 documents that Dr. King had given it in the mid-1960s. (Dr. King received a Ph.D. from Boston University.) She lost in court.

More recently, in September 2011, the estate sued to stop Dr. King’s former secretary, Maude Ballou, from selling about 100 documents, notes, letters and speeches in her possession. Mrs. Ballou, who is 88, and her son, Howard Ballou, maintained that Dr. King had given her the items in the late 1950s when she worked for him. A federal judge in Jackson, Miss., ruled that the King family had no evidence that Mrs. Ballou had improperly obtained the papers, and that the statute of limitations for reclaiming them had long passed. A federal appeals court in New Orleans upheld the decision in March.

Mr. Belafonte’s lawyer, Jonathan Abady, said the King estate has never presented evidence that Mr. Belafonte stole the documents. What’s more, the three-year time limit for filing a suit in New York to reclaim them has passed, he argued.

“We were left with no choice but to seek relief from the courts,” Mr. Abady said. “And, whatever rights the King children have, they are not entitled to undo the wishes and actions of their parents.”

Mr. Belafonte’s ties to Dr. King’s children started to fray in 2006, when Mrs. King died, and her children did not invite him to her funeral because of his support for President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela.

That same year, the family arranged to sell about 10,000 of Dr. King’s sermons, speeches, letters and other papers through Sotheby’s. The sale was called off at the last minute, when the City of Atlanta bought the collection for $32 million and gave it to Morehouse College, Dr. King’s alma mater.

According to the complaint, Mr. Belafonte said Dr. King often stayed in Mr. Belafonte’s Manhattan apartment during the 1960s and held meetings there with advisers. Dr. King wrote the outline of the Vietnam speech during one of these sessions in 1967 and then left it with Mr. Belafonte after he composed an early draft of the speech itself.

The notes for the Memphis speech — the last words Dr. King put to paper — were left as a bequest to Mr. Belafonte by the close King aide Mr. Levison, who died in 1979, the complaint said. Mr. Belafonte said Mrs. King had first tried to give him the notes in the turbulent days after the King assassination, but he urged her to give them to Mr. Levison instead.

Mr. Belafonte said Mrs. King had given him the condolence letter, sending it to him in 2003.

Taylor Branch, a historian who wrote a trilogy of books on Dr. King, said the documents are of little value to scholars but have great value as memorabilia. He called the family’s attempt to wrest the items from Mr. Belafonte “sad to the point of tragedy.”

Clarence B. Jones, Dr. King’s lawyer and close friend, said the King family had every right to protect its copyright. Still, he said the heirs’ attempt to recover documents from Mr. Belafonte was “inconsistent with, and, really, a denigration of, the love and integrity that their dad had for the people who worked with him.”

“Harry Belafonte is not just another person,” he said.


 

Offline FLEX HECTIC

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Re: Belafonte Sues Heirs of Martin Luther King Jr.
« Reply #1 on: October 16, 2013, 11:23:22 am »
Okay... At first I was with Belafonte up until the auction part!


He is selling something valuable for another cause when he should just be hosting fundraisers for that cause to raise money instead!


I could see if he was just holding onto the memorabilia for friendships sake but once he started to sell them all bets are off!


Why not start his own museum or have an art gallery type gathering charging admission to see some of Dr. King's words without selling them off!


I can't wait until I have an estate and my son can sue HEF for all these wonderful posts that I made over the years!


Reggie you better have a good lawyer because some of my threads are classics and my son will want to get PAID... While mourning me of course! ;)






Offline BmoreAkuma

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Re: Belafonte Sues Heirs of Martin Luther King Jr.
« Reply #2 on: October 16, 2013, 12:35:20 pm »
I agree with Flex. He is coming off like an asshole. If these were so "symbolic" why bother to sell them to the "highest bidder"? I went to the website and many of stuff that was sold was sold in the 10s of millions. This is nothing more than a cash grab and I doubt every penny he'll get from these "symbolic" items would be utilize for this.
With these choices, I felt that the American black man only needed to choose which one to get eaten by; the liberal fox or the conservative wolf because both of them will eat him.

Offline Curtis Metcalf

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Re: Belafonte Sues Heirs of Martin Luther King Jr.
« Reply #3 on: October 16, 2013, 06:43:36 pm »
In December 2008, Mr. Belafonte tried to sell the documents at Sotheby’s auction house to raise money, he says, for Barrios Unidos, a charity that works with street gangs. Before the sale could go forward, however, Dr. King’s estate challenged Mr. Belafonte’s ownership of the papers that same month, charging in a letter to Sotheby’s that they are “part of a wrongfully acquired collection.”
And here I thought Flex was just trolling...

Is there something wrong with selling something he owns to raise funds for a cause he believes in? I don't know any more than anybody else reading about it but I have no reason to doubt Mr. Belafonte's stated reasons. And frankly, Mr. Belafonte has earned the benefit of the doubt as far as I'm concerned with his life's work. 
"Seek first to understand, then to be understood."
"Be hard on systems, but soft on people."

Offline Reginald Hudlin

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Re: Belafonte Sues Heirs of Martin Luther King Jr.
« Reply #4 on: October 16, 2013, 07:02:11 pm »
The article states that the family has sold King documents before, so that's not the issue.  Belafonte is selling his property for the cause which he has dedicated his life to.  Who has the track record to sit in judgement of him?

Offline jefferson L.O.B. sergeant

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Re: Belafonte Sues Heirs of Martin Luther King Jr.
« Reply #5 on: October 16, 2013, 07:42:16 pm »
It’s really about what happened to the children, and I feel that somewhere, in this one area, I really failed Martin.”

This statement was harder than a Tea Party member's heart! 8)

I agree with him wholeheartedly in this respect though.

The Kings have done an ABYSMAL job in maintaining their father's legacy.

Offline FLEX HECTIC

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Re: Belafonte Sues Heirs of Martin Luther King Jr.
« Reply #6 on: October 16, 2013, 09:41:23 pm »
Curtis I'm always TROLLING even when I'm not! ;D


Now let's go to church for the gospel truth...


If THE Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King were alive today he would be Jesses Jackson or Al Sharpton trying to get a gig to capitalize upon his fame assuming of course that he was never assassinated in the first place!


A man has to eat and also support his family so at some point he would have had to invest in something one way or another... That means get a job after the civil rights era moved on!


The children of Dr. King did not grow up in the same drama that their father did so they are the gatekeepers of ideals that have to some degree been fulfilled on certain levels so maintaining the legacy is an ever moving goalpost that sometimes teleports causing missed field goals!


This problem is similar to the ones the late Malcolm X family has had dealing with such an iconic black leaders legacy... You can't really blame either family because none of us have had that type of pressure or responsibility placed on our shoulders by default!


Now Harry Belafonte  does have a credible case in that he did put in a lot of work on behalf of Dr. King but no matter what his legacy rightfully belongs to the children of the man he helped regardless of the sacrifices this work entailed!


If HEF blew up overnight because of my TROLLING making it a revenue generating machine and Reggie were assassinated by cyber ninjas from an alternate dimension then his wife and kids by law have power of attorney to collect on them funds all day every day!


Flex: "But I did so much work in the Hard Choices threads!"

Mrs. Hudlin: "Yeah thanks, CHA-CHING... OOPS I mean I miss my boo Reggie! Aw lawd help me now!"

Tarantino: "Another residual check for Django... Sorry about your loss ma'am!"

Mrs. Hudlin: "DIZAMM! Reggie would want me to go shopping with that check... To make me feel better right!"

Curtis Metcalf: "I think you all are mismanaging the Reggie Hudlin Legacy!"

Reggie's Kids: "Whatevs Uncle Curtis... We want a Playstation 4 an Xbox One and a pet giraffe keep it moving partner Love Your Smile!"




Offline BmoreAkuma

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Re: Belafonte Sues Heirs of Martin Luther King Jr.
« Reply #7 on: October 17, 2013, 05:44:59 am »
What is going to happen is that these "symbolic" items will disappear to some guy whom has tons of money never to seen. It'll be nothing more than a "collectors item". If by so chance a museum that places on an emphasis on black culture and history finds some way to get this then Im all for it. But he is going to an auction site that sells "high end" items for millions. Yes he has done great works for the civil rights movement but at the same time it doesn't give him a pass either.
With these choices, I felt that the American black man only needed to choose which one to get eaten by; the liberal fox or the conservative wolf because both of them will eat him.

Offline Curtis Metcalf

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Re: Belafonte Sues Heirs of Martin Luther King Jr.
« Reply #8 on: October 17, 2013, 06:53:10 am »
Curtis I'm always TROLLING even when I'm not! ;D
Exactly. You're like Bruce Banner. No offense intended. I like it.
"Seek first to understand, then to be understood."
"Be hard on systems, but soft on people."

Offline Curtis Metcalf

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Re: Belafonte Sues Heirs of Martin Luther King Jr.
« Reply #9 on: October 17, 2013, 06:55:32 am »
What is going to happen is that these "symbolic" items will disappear to some guy whom has tons of money never to seen. It'll be nothing more than a "collectors item". If by so chance a museum that places on an emphasis on black culture and history finds some way to get this then Im all for it. But he is going to an auction site that sells "high end" items for millions. Yes he has done great works for the civil rights movement but at the same time it doesn't give him a pass either.
A pass on what? I'm not sure what you find inappropriate.
"Seek first to understand, then to be understood."
"Be hard on systems, but soft on people."

Offline Reginald Hudlin

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Re: Belafonte Sues Heirs of Martin Luther King Jr.
« Reply #10 on: October 17, 2013, 09:45:18 am »
What is going to happen is that these "symbolic" items will disappear to some guy whom has tons of money never to seen. It'll be nothing more than a "collectors item". If by so chance a museum that places on an emphasis on black culture and history finds some way to get this then Im all for it. But he is going to an auction site that sells "high end" items for millions. Yes he has done great works for the civil rights movement but at the same time it doesn't give him a pass either.
A pass on what? I'm not sure what you find inappropriate.
Where were these items before?  In his house.  if they go to someone else's house what difference does it make to you? 

Offline FLEX HECTIC

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Re: Belafonte Sues Heirs of Martin Luther King Jr.
« Reply #11 on: October 17, 2013, 11:28:05 am »
This reminds me of the Kobe Bryant situation where his parents were attempting to auction off his memorabilia as legitimate owners of the items in question... The case was eventually settled and family healing ensued afterwards!


I think the problem here is that the King family did not mind Belafonte owning those things for years out of respect for who he was but once he starts to sell them to someone else the problems of someone outside the family (Belafonte is family by default) having them arises!


Don't sell them and there is no problem but once they are put up for auction for any cause then all bets are off because revenue is involved!


The charges levied against Belafonte are similar to the charges Kobe levied against moms and them as that would be the only way to block the sale otherwise they are SOL taking any other angle!


After all, King was their father and they are his children  no matter what even if they may fall short of the legacy from time to time... Compared to Dr. King we all fall short!


Anywho...


I can't wait for my threads here to be auctioned off because my PayPal attorney is ready to go head up against the Hudlin estate like what bring it! 8)


I wonder if Minister Farrahan has some old bow ties once owned by Malcolm X waiting to be auctioned off somewhere and will the Shabazz family go after him for it... Hmmmm?


The Auction House...


"I got those Bobby Seale steel toe jet black boots over here... Po Po blood still on the bottoms!"


"Rosa Parks tea cups right here... Green tea stains still in them priced to sell along with the very seat taken from the bus she refused to give up her spot on!"


"Jesse Owens unwashed socks that he wore in front of Hitler for the big race... They are kind of moldy and statically clung together but they are certified authentic!"


Start your bidding...

Offline BmoreAkuma

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Re: Belafonte Sues Heirs of Martin Luther King Jr.
« Reply #12 on: October 17, 2013, 12:00:26 pm »
A pass on what? I'm not sure what you find inappropriate.
Where were these items before?  In his house.  if they go to someone else's house what difference does it make to you?
If they are as symbolic as he claim why not all of us have an opportunity to see it. Provide it as a gift to some museum.
With these choices, I felt that the American black man only needed to choose which one to get eaten by; the liberal fox or the conservative wolf because both of them will eat him.

Offline Reginald Hudlin

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Re: Belafonte Sues Heirs of Martin Luther King Jr.
« Reply #13 on: October 17, 2013, 12:27:49 pm »
A pass on what? I'm not sure what you find inappropriate.
Where were these items before?  In his house.  if they go to someone else's house what difference does it make to you?
If they are as symbolic as he claim why not all of us have an opportunity to see it. Provide it as a gift to some museum.
He wants to make a difference with the money.  It's his property, his choice.

Offline FLEX HECTIC

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Re: Belafonte Sues Heirs of Martin Luther King Jr.
« Reply #14 on: October 17, 2013, 03:29:12 pm »
If Belafonte feels that he failed Martin with his kids then he should give the items back to them and let them take it from there and keep it moving!


This is one of those growing up things the adult children will have to adjust to as far as the relevancy of the King legacy in the now!


At some point Belafonte also has to find other ways to help his programs like supporting the Black Super Hero movement which counteracts the gangs he is trying to help!


It's time to give young black men a new set of ideals for today's age and let the past be the past!


The King kids are all grown whereas these wayward youth need something that fits their agenda today!


If you know Belafonte Reggie you should reach out to him about Black Panther, Milestone Comics or something along that line because the civil rights activism is dated and apparently not working if it has come to this!


This is the digital age where hardcopies are not even worth anything much once they are posted on the internet!


It was never money that stopped gang activity it was always ideals that did the trick with no money down!