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The Gandhi Foundation and the Indian Community Remember CORETTA SCOTT KING

March 2006
The Gandhi Foundation and the Indian Community Remember CORETTA SCOTT KING

February 7, 2006. The Indian American community was represented at the funeral of Coretta Scott King by a delegation representing the Atlanta-based Gandhi Foundation USA (GFUSA), consisting of the Acting Chair of the Gandhi Foundation and former president of the National Federation of Indian American Associations, as well as Ellis Island Medal of Honor recipient Mr. Subash Razdan, and Gandhi Foundation Executive Director Giriraj Rao, a retired senior scientist in the Corporate Research and Development department of the Coca-Cola Company. Also present was a delegation from the Government of India, consisting of the Deputy Chief of Mission, Embassy of India and former Ambassador of India to Israel, Raminder Singh Jassal, Indian Consul General in Houston.

Also in attendance representing the City of Atlanta as the Chief of Staff of the Mayor's Office was Greg Pridgeon, GFUSA Vice-Chair of the Board of Directors. Among the other 10,000 mourners present were the King family, President George W. Bush, former Presidents Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, Governor of Georgia Sonny Purdue, Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin, numerous government officials, legislative and community leaders from the African American community and many nationally acclaimed artists, poets and performers. The service was held at the New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia, Georgia. All came to honor the memory and celebrate the legacy of this simple woman from Marion, Alabama, who rose from simple beginnings to such great heights that today she is now referred to as the First Lady of American Civil Rights, a most high honor indeed.

Among the many officials to speak, the most touching and relevant to the Gandhi Foundation and its long association with Coretta was Senator Ted Kennedy, who quoted the Beatitudes from the Sermon on the Mount found in the fifth chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, which concludes, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God." "This quote from the Gospel touched a chord in me because it makes the connection between the teachings of Christ and the teachings of Gandhi, who was himself deeply influenced by the Gospel message," said H. V. Shivadas, Director of Operations, GFUSA. "Jesus Christ and Mahatma Gandhi were the two guiding lights for both Martin and Coretta, making this quote particularly appropriate," he added. Also speaking was Sherry Franks of the Jewish American Committee, Atlanta Chapter and former member of the Board of Directors for GFUSA. She spoke about early associations with Coretta King during the Civil Rights struggle.

Coretta Scott King kept the spirit of Gandhi alive after her husband's assassination. She is considered the matriarch of the Gandhi Foundation of USA. She established the Gandhi Room in the Freedom Hall of the King Center in 1983 and dedicated the Gandhi Room at the India Cultural and Religious Center, operated by the India American Cultural Association in Smyrna, Georgia in 1995. In the 1980's she began the tradition of observing Gandhiji's Birth Anniversary in the National Historic District and the Gandhi Foundation USA has continued this tradition since 1997. In 2004, Mrs. King was presented with the first Gandhi Peace Award offered by the Gandhi Foundation USA, in recognition of her life's work to bringing peace and equality to all people. Her son, Martin Luther King III accepted the award on her behalf.

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