Wisely, the organizers postponed the dedication in advance of Irene, moving it to Sunday, October 16. The morning program will be free and open to the public. See http://bit.ly/nQ3JPm for information.
King’s fraternity brothers in Alpha Phi Alpha, the first intercollegiate Greek-letter fraternity established for African-Americans, initiated the concept of his memorial, then created the foundation that ultimately paid for and built the project 25 years later. The complex of three major stones anchored by a semi-circular wall of memorable quotations, sits along a northwest section of the water facing the Jefferson Memorial. The memorial towers over cherry trees that usually bloom in early April, which happens to be the time of King’s death in 1968. This location will put the memorial in the path of millions from around the globe who visit DC to celebrate spring’s beauty. What a fitting way to commemorate King’s contribution to this nation, with beauty and respect! The memorial team says it best:
His vision of America is captured in his message of hope and possibility for a future anchored in dignity, sensitivity, and mutual respect; a message that challenges each of us to recognize that America's true strength lies in its diversity of talents … The vision of a memorial in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. is one that captures the essence of his message … freedom, democracy and opportunity for all.
Personally, I was moved by the 12 quotations etched in granite along the walkway behind the statue. I plan to post photos of each quotation on this blog, one at a time, for your contemplation.
You can walk among the various pieces of sculpture freely. No tickets are involved, but parking and/or Metro stops are a hike away. Look at it this way: the fairly lengthy walk gives you time to think about what you’re doing and why you’re there.
When you visit, expect to see or even shed a few tears. Listen closely as grandparents explain to their young who and what this man was. Don’t be surprised if people whisper because the site’s tomb-quality tends to have that effect on visitors.
While we were there, people of all races talked to each other, sharing pride and gratitude for the legacy King left us. They volunteered to take photos of each other, commemorating the moment. That’s the way it should be.
My only hope is that young people find a way to get close to Dr. King, in their own way. Since they won’t have the benefit we had of learning about him first- or even second-hand, I hope they read Letters from a Birmingham Jail or transcripts of King’s most important speeches.
For those of us who shared some of the same time on earth with this man, he’s a giant, albeit a human one. There could not be a better time to find a hero to anchor one's life on, nor could there be a better anchor than Martin Luther King.
Don’t be too shocked when you see the enormity of his statue. Although imposing, someone who related as well to garbage collectors as he did to royalty may have preferred being portrayed on a more human scale, putting him closer to eye level. Nonetheless, the statue is quite imposing, almost majestic. I’m not sure I like the expression the artist chose for his face, but it’s one of strength and determination, and that’s not a bad way to be remembered.
Note: All photos are mine. Ask for permission to reprint.