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A Dream Fulfilled: Despite the forces of Mother Nature the Dreams of MLK Memorial Remain Unshaken | Arts & Culture

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A Dream Fulfilled: Despite the forces of Mother Nature the Dreams of MLK Memorial Remain Unshaken
A Dream Fulfilled:  Despite the forces of Mother Nature the Dreams of MLK Memorial Remain Unshaken

Conceived by members of the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, and completed under the leadership of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Foundation, the MLK memorial on the National Mall was supposed to be dedicated on August, 28, 2011 on the 48th Anniversary of the March on Washing for Jobs and Freedom.  However with the impending threat of Hurricane Irene the dedication along with the remaining weekend events were forced to be postponed for a later time this fall.

When I first heard that the final dedication would be rescheduled, my thoughts were to name this article “A Dream Deferred” but after attending the momentous and inspiring week long events leading to the dedication day, I realized the article should be rightfully entitled “A Dream Fulfilled”.   While Martin Luther King's dream of racial and economic equality is a work in progress, the dedication memorial events that did take place were successful in filling the dream of dedicating the only African-American memorial on the National Mall with thousands in attendance and hope and love exchanged from national leaders to local residents all in keeping the dream alive.

This sentiment  of pressing forward with the "dream" was shared with Reverend Joseph Lowery, minister and prominent leader of the Civil Rights Movement, who spoke at the MLK concluding prayer service ceremony which was moved to the Basilica of the National Shrine because of the hurricane and unexpected earthquake on Tuesday.

“With all that Black people have gone through we are not going to worry about a little hurricane,” said Lowery jokingly. 

Lowery in his remarks at the prayer service, also recalls giving the benediction of President Obama’s Inauguration and how he gazed across the national grounds looking at the Lincoln Memorial and “Booker T.” Washington Memorial as he calls it and couldn’t help but feel like Martin Luther King was calling America that day to come to a "higher ground, a higher ground of content of character.”  The prayer service also included remarks by Ambassador Andrew Young and a performance by BeBe Winans

A constant theme that has run throughout the media coverage of the MLK dedication is the belief that America via the Declaration of Independence signed a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir.  However, even with the election of the United States first African-American president, America still has a long way to go in ridding the world of the three evils of “poverty, racism and war” according to Martin Luther King. 

Martin Luther King proclaimed in his infamous “I Have a Dream” speech that America has “given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked ‘insufficient funds’.”  Bernice King in her remarks at the prayer service commented on the difficult days we have ahead to make America make “good” on its promise and what it felt to be the child of Martin Luther King/

“My daddy died when I was five years old," King said.  "So my whole life I have come to know more about Dr. King than who he was as my daddy.  The man I have come to know is a humble servant of God that didn’t always do what was popular but what was the will of God.  We’ve got some difficult days ahead as my daddy says so let it not be about us but about the will of God."

The kick off festivities for the week long event began on Monday with a premiere public opening of the MLK Memorial grounds. 

Residents locally and nationwide flocked to the statute to get a glimpse of it and take pictures.  Each part of the MLK Memorial holds significance.  It includes a 30-foot-tall sculpture of King and a 450-foot-long granite wall inscribed with 14 quotations from the civil rights leader.  The statue depicts King emerging from a stone. The concept for the memorial was taken from a line in the "I Have a Dream" speech, which is carved into the stone: "Out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope." Visitors to the memorial pass through a sculpture of the mountain of despair and come upon the stone of hope. 

The unexpected earthquake on Tuesday that rocked most of the east coast, forced Wednesday's gala, “Honoring Global Leader for Peace International Salute Gala” to be moved to the Convention Center where President Obama gave a speech.  Thursday and Friday were full events including The Message in the Music Concert of the Civil Rights Era Music that featured artists like Anthony Hamilton and Patti Labelle who performed legendary sounds of the Civil Rights Movement inspiring hope, strength and change.  Mid-week events also included ribbon cutting by Mayor Vincent Gray of the Partners in the Dream Public Expo that featured local and nationwide talent performances, interactive booths and prizes to celebrate the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 

Out of all the events, the events that stood out the most were the exclusive, “Honoring Past, Present, Future Pioneers” and the “Women Who Dare to Dream” luncheons. Performances and speakers included:  Martin Luther King, Jr.’s children, Martin Luther King III and Bernice King, Attorney General Eric Holder, Reverend Jesse Jackson, Sr., The Young and the Restless actress and writer Victoria Rowell, Grammy Award Winning Artist India Arie and the renowned poet/author/activist Maya Angelou.  Both luncheons had the running theme throughout the week’s festivities of  justice, hope, democracy, and love.  Most notably, Delores Huerta, co-founder of the United Farm Workers, spoke on the topic of justice: “We are all one race, the homosapien race and we all started in Africa.  So tell the KKK and the Tea Partiers to get over it we are all Africans,” said Huerta jokingly. 

On a more serious note Huerta emphasized that the march for “justice” is in danger and that we can never get justice unless we have economic equality and this equality cannot exist without quality education for everyone so that every person has access to decent jobs.

Other notable presentations included original material performed by India Arie (click here for video snippet) with her two song selections that was followed by Maya Angelou’s reading of her original poem wrote for this week’s dedication entitled “Abundant Hope”.  “With a heart of faith, he hoped to resurrect his nation," the 83-year-old poet said to thousands of women attending the "Women Who Dare to Dream" luncheon. “… He preached fair play and serenity.  From handcuffs and prison garb, from leg irons and prison bars.”   

The women’s luncheon concluded with remarks from MLK’s daughter Bernice King who spoke of the importance of women of the Civil Rights movement (see video clip above).  “Where would we be without the women who sacrificed and supported the dreams of great men like my father?  I don’t know how my father could have done what he did without his wife and mother,” proclaimed King.  She concluded her remarks with these very poignant words, “This memorial is a honor for the nation not for Martin Luther King.  We are the fruit of Martin Luther King and we will continue the tradition.  You see you may can slay the dreamer but watch would has become of his dream.  Daddy your blood will not be shed in vein,” declared King. 

With that said, the MLK National Memorial Project presses on to reschedule the dedication later in the Fall.  For more information or to make a donation, visit www.buildthedream.org




Important Facts about the MLK Memorial:

The location of the memorial accentuates his story within the larger narrative of the nation.  The memorial is strategically placed on a direct line between the Lincoln Memorial where he gave his infamous “I Have a Dream” speech and the Thomas Jefferson Memorial.  The statute of Martin Luther King, Jr. gazes across the Tidal Basin towards the Thomas Jefferson Memorial and the promise of freedom found within the Declaration of Independence. The sculptor, Lei Yixin, said he wanted the memorial to be a visual representation of the ideals King spoke of in his “I Have a Dream" speech.  "His dream is very universal. It's a dream of equality,” Lei said through his son, who translated from Mandarin.  “He went to jail. He had been beaten, and he sacrificed his life for his dream. And now his dream comes true,” said Yixin.