Born in Dothan, Alabama in 1931, Naomi Ruth Barber King was destined for greatness and she ensured to support her husband, her family and the communities around her. Naomi would come to walk in the grace and distinction of her beloved butterflies, and acquire the noted title of the “Butterfly Queen.” In the early days of her life, Naomi was raised by her mother Bessie Barber.
They moved to Atlanta to make a better living for themselves. “Mama Bessie” spared nothing for the upbringing of her daughter.
Bessie and Naomi joined Ebenezer Baptist Church and began to grow spiritually under the pastorate of Rev. Martin Luther King Sr. and his wife, Alberta Williams King. Naomi got to know their children, and caught the eye of their youngest son, A. D.
In 1949, Naomi entered Spelman College, where she spent a year studying French before marrying A.D. Williams King.
Together, she and her husband supported Martin Luther King Jr., when, in 1955, Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to move to the back of the bus in Montgomery, Alabama.
Naomi is a recognised author and is noted for her devotion to God, her family and her church. Naomi recalls that her courtship and marriage to Rev. King is a wonderful love story. A. D. called her Neenie.
Today, Naomi King is a beloved mother, grandmother, great grandmother, and bright light to those in the church and communities she serves. She is the inspiration of the documentary project ‘A. D. King: Brother to the Dreamer’ produced by Babs Onabanjo.
She speaks out on important issues of the day, travels all over the world promoting youth and women empowerment, non-violent social change strategies as a way of life and entrepreneurship as the center core. She has published a love story of her life entitled ‘A D and ML King: Two Brothers Who Dared To Dream’ a must read, and foreword written by Babs Onabanjo.
After the hustle and bustle of the week, Sunday refreshes and prepares you for the new week. It is also often a beautiful time of fellowship in church.
31st of July was a beautiful Sunday morning, weather right, mind set, and mood optimistic to enjoy fellowship with like minded people. I was looking forward to the beautiful songs from the choir to lift our souls and bless our hearts, and of course the word in season from Pastor Paul Adefarasin.
Service began and one after the other the programme for the day began to take shape. Opening prayers, then praise. One after the other, the songs filled the atmosphere, hands lifted in worship, dancing and being refreshed, hope rising, burdens lifted, claps and rejoicing, jumping and bursting forth in endless Hallelujahs and high praises….my oh my, I felt invigorated!
After the high praise, we went into worship, with songs like one from one of my favourites, ‘Draw Me Close To You’ by Michael W. Smith. As the chorus filled the air, we all sang in accord, “You are all I want, You are all I ever needed, You are all I want, help me know You anew…” Then, it was on to another beautiful one, ‘Heart Of Worship’ by Matt Redman “I am coming back to the heart of worship and it’s all about You…” Tears flowed freely down my face as I reflected and acknowledged that no matter who we are, what we have endured, who we are becoming and all we go through in life, it is indeed all about God. The worship flowed ceaselessly, one after the other we kept soaking it all in. Trust me when I say it felt like it shouldn’t end.
Then it was time for the special number, and just when I thought I had heard some soul soothing songs already, written by some of my favourites, the LMGC (HOTR Choir) takes us into a time of hope and optimism rose. It was the ever green song by the legendary gospel minister, Cece Winans, titled MERCY SAID NO….goodness gracious….I can’t explain completely in words what that song does to me. The lyrics hits every part of you and you can virtually picture yourself in the words, line by line.
Then, getting to the part of the song that says “…..as evil tried to stop redemption’s flow…Mercy said No…” by this time, it was easy to tell that the congregation in unison and likeness of mind, agreed that even when evil tries to stop the flow, MERCY will always say NO!
It was such a beautiful moment. All of that prepared our hearts for the beautiful words we were about to hear.
After worship came the news, hymns, announcements and salutations, and then, the moment came.
First, it was to recognise her presence. Dr Rev. Naomi Ruth Barber King was in the building!
“We have some August visitors…and seated in the esteemed space, is over 150 years of faithful ministry of delivering people out of the bonds of inequality, inequity and injustice. I speak of no other family, other than the Dr Martin Luther King Jr and Coretta Scott King family” Pastor Paul Adefarasin announced.
Then he continued “I never got to meet Martin Luther King the 2nd personally, but got time with Dexter Scott Martin Luther King the 3rd and also Bernice Albertine King, the youngest child, but today, we have the widow of his younger brother, who was also a great preacher in the wake of his father, Dr Martin Luther King the 1st, and also as a partner with his brother, Martin Luther King Jr, and today, I will like for us to acknowledge the very estimable presence of, Dr Mrs Naomi Barber King, the founder of the A.D King Foundation.”
With an endearing smile that warmed our hearts, and even though Pastor Paul said “Mom, we want you to sit, you don’t have to rise”, she was about to get up to honour the applause. I knew from her gesture that when she would speak to us, there was no way mama was going to do so seated. You could just tell that age wasn’t going to stop her from showing truly what the King’s family represents, which is strength, optimism and tenaciousness! Guess how old she is? Read further, you are soon to find out.
Pastor Paul further recognised that she was accompanied by Pastor Nick Stonestreet, the CEO and Chief Investment Officer of Ronald Blue Trust, and Professor Babs Onabanjo, the President and CEO of the A.D King Foundation.
Whenever I hear of Nigerians flying the flag right through their character and endeavour especially on the global scene, it is often encouraging as many of such people help to change the perceived narrative, which is often as a result of hasty generalisation and misconceptions by people, from the chronicles of a few who do not represent the majority of Nigerians.
As Stonestreet came forward to speak, he had us all emotional as he acknowledged the honour to travel with Dr Naomi King. His voice was shaky as he recounted all Dr Naomi had been through, and how, at the centre of it all, she loves and forgives. In his words, “She has lived a truly incredible life, one that has gone from tragedy to peace. So you see someone whose family has experienced incredible trauma with the bombing of her home, the bombing of her church, the murder of Martin, the murder of her husband who was killed about a year after Martin Luther King Jr was killed. She raised 5 children as a widow in the civil rights movement, and do you know what she talks about? She doesn’t talk about hate, she doesn’t talk about vengeance, she talks about love and forgiveness. Do you know why? There is only one reason, because of our Lord and saviour, Jesus Christ and the experience of the forgiveness she has received, she extends to others, even the killers of her family members. This is truly about Christ, from tragedy to peace” He said.
As Stonestreet walked up to her to assist her get up to deliver her speech, and with a resounding applause, the entire congregation got up on their feet as she was being announced by Pastor Paul. She walked gracefully to the podium, even though, again, he said “Mother, you do not have to go to the podium” but, mama’s eyes were on the mark, she would walk gracefully to the podium and that was exactly what she did.
At this point, my face hurt, I couldn’t understand why, then it hit me quickly, I had been smiling for too long as I watched in awe of this outstanding woman of honour. All she represents came to life right before me. Such a life of impact and fulfillment.
She made her way assisted to the podium, she was handed the microphone, and I couldn’t help but notice the smile on her face, her gestures, her poise, the elegant movement of her head, her stunning purple gown that defines royalty, the beautiful white pearls that sat comfortably on her neck, which matched her white hair band and gorgeous white hair that laid back sweetly. There was a glow that radiated through her, an incontestable majestic grandeur. I could stare at her for forever. We were all in awe, so much that sitting while she began speaking wasn’t on our to do list, Naaaaaaa!….We had no plans for that, and even though that wasn’t communicated to all, when you have been under the tutelage of Pastor Paul for years, common sense cannot be scarce, you naturally know what to do. So upstanding everyone was, and our distinguished guest began.
“Good morning brothers and sisters. What a blessing to look into the beautiful faces of each and every one of you. You know, I was glad when they said unto me, let us go into the house of the Lord and worship. That is exactly what I am here for, to worship and hear your wonderful Pastor, and in the name of Jesus the Christ, in the name of Martin Luther King Jr, in the name of my Boaz, if you will, the Rev A.D Williams King, I bring you greetings from the entire King family. We extend to each and everyone love, thanks and God’s blessings for your soul. You know, I can stand here and talk for a long time but you know, I am not going to do that. The Rev. A.D Williams King, my Boaz, whom I loved with all my heart, mind and soul, would have been 92 yesterday (31st Of July 2022), and you are looking at me, and I am 90 years old. I am glad to leave with you this thought. Love God Almighty with all of your heart, mind and soul, and give Him the glory for your being here. So, love one another, love God, love yourself, and truly you will be blessed. I was glad when they said unto me, let us go into the house of the Lord and I am ready to worship and also listen to your wonderful pastor, Amen!” She ended.
Again, after she was done, she was applauded as she walked back to her seat, and once again, Pastor Paul remarked “…they passed nearly half a century ago, and it is a formidable sign of the enormous grace and mercy of God that she is still standing and carrying the baton and flying the flag that her brother in-law and her husband left for the family, and we are so privileged this morning to have had her speak on behalf of their many values. Would you please, with an outstanding ovation, salute and honour her very estimable presence, to the glory of her God, and the Father of our Christ, Jesus The King Of Glory, Dr Naomi King”.
Sunday Service continued and trust me when I say I had an amazing time as I was truly inspired!
LESSONS I LEARNT FROM NAOMI RUTH BARBER KING
1, No matter how difficult life can be, you can live through it.
2, Your conviction cannot be quenched except you allow it.
3, Even to the point of death, forgiveness is possible.
4, You do not need a reason to forgive, just forgive.
5, Age is not a barrier to impacting lives, yes you can!
6, The legacy you LIVE by will speak for you when you LEAVE.
7, Family is everything.
8, Marriage can be beautiful and good memories can linger when you marry the right person for you.
9, You can stand and live for truth and justice even in the midst of adversities.
10, The essence of what you embody and believe in must be evident to all and at all times.
11, You can grow old and age gracefully
12, You can make a change if you choose to. Life is about choices.