The Next Generation
Photo: Bennett Raglin/WireImage.com
A young group of peacemakers—the children and grandchildren of global leaders—is mobilizing to stand up for the victims of oppression and war. O profiles Gen II.In a New York photography studio in late September, Kerry Kennedy and Martin Luther King III are standing away from the cameras, heads bent toward each other, deep in conversation. King is the son of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Kennedy is the daughter of Robert F. Kennedy, and as they talk, their faces in profile poignantly recall their fathers'. It is impossible not to imagine that 40 years ago, the civil rights leader and the senator who championed social justice might have huddled in just this way.
On a coffee table lies a copy of The New York Times. One headline refers to Louisiana's Jena Six, the group of African-American youths seen by many as the victims of a racially biased justice system; other stories are about Iraq. It seems both a fitting tribute and a rueful irony that the children of two men who fought against racism and a divisive war have convened on this day, and at this time, when the world is still bedeviled by strife and afflicted with an at-large malaise.
But they're here as part of their efforts to change their time; the photo shoot is all about Gen II Peacemakers, a group that includes King, Kennedy, and a handful of others who likewise inherited world-changer DNA. Their goal is to bring relief to trouble spots around the globe, by getting all sides in a given conflict to sit down and talk. Their motivation, in the words of member Naomi Tutu: "We're all prisoners of hope."
"I think that after my mom's passing, I wanted to figure out what I was going to do with the rest of my life," says King, referring to Coretta Scott King, who died in January 2006. Before that time, King had served as president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the organization his father helped create, and the King Center, which memorializes his parents' work. But now he wanted to continue that work, and to that end he created the nonprofit organization Realizing the Dream. Gen II is one of the organization's chief initiatives; it was sparked by a trip to Israel in autumn 2006, when King was looking for "constructive ways to be helpful in the peace process."
King envisions a sort of United Nations in microcosm, minus the agendas and special interests, with each member of Gen II bringing his or her own resources and contacts to bear in creating actionable, nonviolent solutions to humanitarian crises while pursuing social, economic, and political justice. The group's logo—a photograph of King III's hand flashing the peace sign—is a visual double entendre, symbolizing not just peace but the number 2, as in "generation next."