Today marks the 44th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., a day that shook a nation and forever changed D.C.’s landscape. The riots that erupted in the wake of King’s killing devastated many D.C. neighborhoods, which were left economically depressed for decades. That environment set the stage for present day gentrification.
Rioting after King’s assassination lasted for days in D.C., where initially peaceful gatherings turned violent. People looted businesses and more than 1,000 buildings burned to the ground. A curfew was put into place. Ben’s Chili Bowl on U Street was one of the few businesses that remained opened through the riots.
In the video below, Ben’s Chili Bowl cofounder Virginia Ali and others recall D.C. during the riots. They also talk about how Ben’s survived the aftermath of the riots and then weathered gentrification. Ben’s is one of the oldest businesses on U Street and is now a bonafide D.C. landmark.
At the end of the video, Virginia Ali says, “What has been most interesting and most satisfying for me, is to go into the Chili Bowl and see people from all walks of life: the rich, the poor, the intellectuals, those who haven’t gotten very much education.” It runs the gamut, she says, including people of all races, and seeing such diversity has “just been wonderful. I think that’s what the world should look like.”
DCist reports that “D.C. Residents’ Day,” originally only for District residents, is now open for all. Anyone who shows up between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m., Aug. 23 can see the memorial, regardless of their residency.
You can also mark the historic occasion by purchasing a commemorative Metro fare card. The memorial is the first on the Mall to honor an African American.
The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, the first to honor an African American man on the National Mall, will be dedicated Aug. 28. So why not remember the historic occasion with a commemorative Metro fare card?
This isn’t the first time Metro has issued a commemorative pass to mark an historic occasion; the system sold permanent, $10 SmarTrip cards in the lead up to the inauguration of President Barack Obama.
Luther Place's first mural: Saint Francis of Assisi-- and a congregant's Dalmatian!
Earlier today, I published the first part of an interview with Reverend Karen Brau of Thomas Circle’s Luther Place church; they just dedicated a mural on the 14th street side of their building to “Saint Martin of Birmingham”, whom you may know as the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Here’s the remainder of our conversation, as promised:
Where did the idea for this mural come from– what inspired it?
I’ve been at Luther Place for two years; I came from inner-city Baltimore where I worked in neighborhood ministry…we did things with vacant lots, gardening and art. In Baltimore, we had the gift of many vacant lots. Here, that’s not the case, so we thought ‘how do we use what we have?’ Instead of putting up a big fence and having it be just our space…we explored what commonality means by sharing this art outside.
We are always reforming, we have this sense that God is calling us to new things. We looked at the space around Luther Place and we realized that some people will never come inside our church, so how could we honor the outside of it? How could we reach others? By a Sacred Commons. “Sacred” in that it’s holy ground, “Commons” in that it’s held in common by anyone who comes through. It’s also “sacred” in the sense that all people are sacred or children of God, and “common” in that we have the possibility of finding new ways to share and live in common. We need places to practice what that means. Continue reading →
Luther Place's second mural, featuring "Saint Martin of Birmingham", watches over 14th street.
Before this week, if you had asked me where “Luther Place” was, I would’ve looked at you blankly, despite the fact that I’ve lived here since 1999. Shame on me, for that. Luther Place Memorial Church sits on Thomas Circle; it’s a brick building you’ve probably passed dozens of times if you walk, bike or drive on 14th street NW. This week, the congregation dedicated a special mural featuring “Saint Martin of Birmingham”, or the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I spoke to Reverend Karen Brau yesterday about this new piece of public art, her congregation and its history in this city.
Tell me about Luther Place.
It’s a congregation that has been part of this city since the 1870s. In the 1960s, when riots happened on 14th street, we were called to open our doors and be a refuge for people at that time. Now we have a ministry for homeless women that serves over 800 women a year with shelter, job placement and help with recovery from addiction.
I’d love to know more about what Luther Place did during the riots–
The congregation made the decision to open the doors of our church, and it became a point of sanctuary for people who needed a place to stay. Luther Place also became a distribution point…other congregations from different parts of the city brought food to us that could be shared with people being affected by what was going on at that time. I think that act was a turning point; in the words of the gospel, you should love your neighbor, care for a stranger. Those words came to life in a very palpable way. And not everyone could deal with that, so that defined the congregation too. Continue reading →
The memorial will sit on four acres near the Tidal Basin between the Lincoln and Jefferson memorials and include a bookstore and visitor center.
Thirteen years of quotes from King’s books, letters and speeches will be displayed on 355 granite panels.
At the center of this $120 million project, Dr. King’s words are given form: ”a mountain of despair” — through which visitors will be able to walk — and “a stone of hope,” which bears a 28-foot tall sculpture of King less than a month from completion.
The monument isn’t scheduled to open to the public until August 2011, but you can get a 3d-riffic sneak preview in the video below. Meanwhile, today represents another milestone in MLK’s gigantic legacy: 46 years ago on December 10, he received the Nobel Peace Prize.