Rev. Al Sharpton set the tone of the memorials to Rodney King yesterday in Los Angeles by pointing out that King was not just a prop in a social drama, “he was someone’s father, he was someone’s nephew, he was someone’s son.”
“He turned his scars into stars,” Sharpton told those gathered at the Hall of Liberty, “and showed the nation a better way, and for that, the nation is in debt to Rodney King and to his family.”
King was honored by 225 family, friends and celebrities yesterday in Los Angeles, weeks after he was found dead in his swimming pool in Rialto by his wife Cynthia Kelly. King became a national symbol when his beating by Los Angeles police was caught on videotape—and then the police were acquitted by an all-white jury, sparking vicious riots that prompted King to make his famous appeal for calm.
At the memorial, his attorney Steven Lerman recalled a conversation he had with King while they were working on a civil suit against the city of Los Angeles.
“Long after your case is closed, you are going to have to be Rodney King for the rest of your life. Do you think you can handle that?” Lerman asked. “And he looked at me and he said, ‘Steve, I just don’t know.'”
As King struggled with addiction throughout the years, he demonstrated that he wasn’t in fact ready to handle that. He even appeared in 2008 on Dr. Drew Pinsky’s VH1 show, “Celebrity Rehab With Dr. Drew.” Pinsky was also at the funeral service.
Accompanied by her sisters, Candice and Tristian, King’s daughter, Dene, told the gathering. “I know it’s normal to be sad,” she said, “but every time I see his smile, I wonder why we are sad.”
“He showed us how to rise above his pain and make this a better place for everyone,” said Sharpton. “I do not know anyone who could have taken what he took and still not show any bitterness, any rancor or divisiveness.”