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Arts and Culture

MLK Memorial Opens … and Then Has a Shaky Moment

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Posted on Aug 23, 2011
AP / Charles Dharapak

The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Washington will be dedicated Sunday. 

A monument memorializing Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the first on the National Mall and in other nearby parks to honor an African-American, was officially opened to the public Monday. Within hours, the memorial, along with all other monuments on the National Mall, was closed after an earthquake struck Washington, D.C., and a large area of the eastern U.S. on Tuesday. At the time of this posting, officials were not saying when the King memorial would be reopened.

The memorial was first proposed by members of King’s fraternity 27 years ago and authorized by Congress back in 1996. Those championing the project faced huge financial obstacles (the project was set to announce its fundraising campaign just after 9/11, then came a series of natural disasters and the downturn of the economy) as well as public opposition to their choice of a Chinese sculptor rather than a black artist to create the monument.

The memorial will be dedicated in a ceremony Sunday that is planned to coincide with the 48th anniversary of the March on Washington and King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. The ceremony, during which President Obama will say a few words, is expected to draw huge crowds from across the nation. [On Friday, Aug. 26, organizers announced that because of the approach of Hurricane Irene the ceremony would be delayed until sometime in September or October.]  —BF

The Associated Press:

King’s likeness rises a full 30 feet to watch over the memorial landscape. The 1964 Nobel Peace Prize winner stands with his arms crossed, carved from a “stone of hope,” looking toward the horizon. The central theme is King as a symbol of hope emerging from a boulder — a “mountain of despair,” as King said in his 1963 “Dream” speech.

Visitors pass through a narrow opening in the “mountain” to symbolize the struggle for civil rights before entering an open plaza. They won’t discover King’s statue right away. Designers intend for waterfalls to draw visitors to either side of the plaza to first see curving granite walls carved with 14 quotations from King, none of which is from the “Dream” speech — organizers said they wanted to focus on some of King’s powerful but lesser-known words, such as his Nobel acceptance remarks and his “Letter from Birmingham Jail.”

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Peter Knopfler's avatar

By Peter Knopfler, August 27, 2011 at 11:17 am Link to this comment

TYPICAL COMMUNIST CHINESE STATUE OF MAO WITH NEGRO
FEATURES A DIME A DOZEN IN COMMUNIST CHINA WHERE; BY
THE WAY; ARE NO BLACKS NO RIGHTS BUT MAO STATUE EVERY
WHERE, JUST LIKE MLK ONE, MAO WHO KILLED 60 MILLION
PEOPLE SHAME ON BLACK COMMUNITY TESTICLE CUTTING
JACKSON UNCLE TOMMING TO COMMUNIST CHINA AL SHARPTON
MURDOCH`S NEWSEST SLAVE SHAME ON BLACK COMMUNITY OF
AMERICA: BLACKS WILL BE COMMUNIST CHINA SLAVES: WAL-
MARTS TSA= AIRPORT WORKERS= HOMELAND SECURITY=
MILITARY ALL BLACK SLAVES TO WHITE OR COMMUNIST
CHINA.
AMERICAN INDIANS refused slavery put on reservations
then BLACK SLAVES BROUGHT IN; EASIER TO CONTROL KNOW
YOUR HISTORY MEMORY OF SOCIETY: AT THE TIME OF
KING=GAY CROSS DRESSER J.EDGAR HOOVER RULED FBI WITH
AN IRON DICK ACCUSED KING OF BEING COMMUNIST AND NOW
THEY MAKE THE STATUE. IS THERE NOT SOMETHING SICK
ABOUT THIS MAO-KING STATUE!

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David J. Cyr's avatar

By David J. Cyr, August 26, 2011 at 5:35 am Link to this comment

It’s quite humorous that Lei Yixin’s powerful “Stone of Hope” sculpture looks much more like Mao than MLK.

Lei is reportedly working on a bronze bust of Obama. Will that artful joke look more like Vladimir Lenin… or perhaps Malcolm X?

http://chenangogreens.org

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John M's avatar

By John M, August 25, 2011 at 9:17 am Link to this comment

Why was the statue made in china? Why import 20 stone
masons from china to erect it? Why pay the King family
$800,000.00 to use his quotes?

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By SarcastiCanuck, August 25, 2011 at 7:54 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

MLK sculpted by a Chinese???How cool,I bet the doctor would have loved that since it espouses what he preached.All men,standing shoulder to shoulder..

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By ibivi, August 23, 2011 at 11:42 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

It seems that a number of counterintuitive decisions were made for the monument.  Why is the statue of Dr King 30’ high?  Why was the stone used purchased from China?  Why weren’t his most famous phrases used?  Are they afraid that his image will be defaced by racists?  The stone is very unusual but there are many different types of native stone available in the US which would have been perfectly suitable.  His words of hope for the future resonate with people all over the world.  That is what they would wish to see if they visited the monument.  I look forward to seeing the dedication ceremony.

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EmileZ's avatar

By EmileZ, August 23, 2011 at 3:43 pm Link to this comment

http://www.democracynow.org/2011/1/17/special_dr_martin_luther_king_jr

SPECIAL: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in His Own Words

Today is the federal holiday that honors Dr. Martin Luther King. He was born January 15th, 1929. He was assassinated April 4, 1968, at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. He was just 39 years old. While Dr. King is primarily remembered as a civil rights leader, he also championed the cause of the poor and organized the Poor People’s Campaign to address issues of economic justice. Dr. King was also a fierce critic of U.S. foreign policy and the Vietnam War. We play his “Beyond Vietnam” speech, which he delivered at New York’s Riverside Church on April 4, 1967, as well as his last speech, “I Have Been to the Mountain Top,” that he gave on April 3, 1968, the night before he was assassinated.

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EmileZ's avatar

By EmileZ, August 23, 2011 at 3:32 pm Link to this comment

http://www.c-spanvideo.org/program/AnActo

William Pepper talked about his book An Act of State: The Execution of Martin Luther King, published by Verso. The book is about his friendship with Martin Luther King, Jr., their work together in opposing the Vietnam War and on the Poor Peoples Campaign, and Dr. King’s assassination. Mr. Pepper argues that James Earl Ray, the man convicted of assassinating Dr. King, was only a “patsy” and that the men who conspired to kill Dr. King—at least one of whom is still alive—have never been brought to justice. Mr. Pepper also talks about the 1999 wrongful death lawsuit brought, and won, by the King family against Memphis restaurant owner Lloyd Jowers, on the grounds that he conspired to kill Dr. King. He answered questions from members of the audience following his remarks.

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