As part of the SCLC of Southern California’s 6th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Sacrifice Community/Labor Luncheon, held April 23 at the Hyatt Regency Hotel, L.A. Focus publisher Lisa Collins was awarded with the MLK Community Service Award. In accepting the award from SCLC president William Smart, Collins spoke of her childhood memories of growing up in a household where Dr. King was a frequent visitor.
“The last time I saw Dr. King, I had awakened late one Saturday morning to find him sitting at our kitchen table putting the finishing touches on what was probably the last speech he would give in Los Angeles,” she began. “My Dad—who was executive director of what was then the Western Christian Leadership Conference under Rev. Thomas Kilgore— orchestrated Dr. King’s west coast trips. He had taken my brothers somewhere and it was just Dr. King and I. He looked up, greeted me and then told me where my Dad had left breakfast. He went back to his work and I went back to my room.”
She noted that she was too young to understand the magnitude of just how he was changing the world.
“To be honest, I didn’t know the civil rights icon. I knew the man,” she said. “I knew that if Dr. King was in town, our house would be filled with pastors and laughter and lots of joke telling. Our phones were tapped, and because of death threats we were routinely followed by local feds whenever Dr. King was in town. My Dad would say it was because they didn’t want him to be assassinated in Los Angeles, but they knew he would be assassinated somewhere.”
She described the perks of knowing the civil rights legend.
“Because of Dr. King, we had a billiards table in our house so he could shoot pool. We got to go to movie fundraisers for SCLC with Dr. King. We had Xernona Clayton as a frequent babysitter and we got to meet people like Sammy Davis Jr. and Marlon Brando.”
She concluded her remarks with her childhood perspective of the civil rights icon’s humanity and with gratitude to the SCLC for an award she said brought her “full circle with a foundation I am so very proud to have experienced and been inspired by.”
The event was keynoted by famed professor, author and intellectual, Dr. Cornell West and hosted by comedian Michael Colyar. Others honored during the ceremony were Ian Foxx, who received the Gordon Parks Arts & Literary Award and labor leader Jim Mangia, who received the Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Justice Award.