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The controversy over the quote on the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial isn’t over. National Park Service plans to change the quote
on the side of King’s statue is drawing criticism from the monument’s executive architect and others.
The quote on King’s statue currently reads, “I was a drum major for justice, peace and righteousness.” It’s a paraphrased version of this longer quote, from the end of his “Drum Major” speech:
If you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice. Say that I was a drum major for peace. I was a drum major for righteousness. And all of the other shallow things will not matter.
Some, including poet Maya Angelou, have criticized the paraphrased version, saying it makes King sound arrogant. The monument’s architect says the existing stone can’t be matched and changing the quote “would essentially deface the monument,” reports WAMU 88.5′s Elliott Francis.
Do you think the paraphrased version should be changed, or should the NPS leave the memorial alone? Vote below:
Alan / Flickr
Martin Luther King Jr. Day is on Monday.
History: Monday marks Martin Luther King Jr. Day and this year will be the first time that King’s memorial on the National Mall will be open to the public. A number of events and activities, which can be reviewed here, are being held on the memorial’s grounds starting Friday and running through Wednesday.
Talk: It’s too late to reserve seats to attend Thursday’s “Remaking America,” a conversation hosted by Tavis Smiley at George Washington University and being broadcast live on C-SPAN. But if you have to miss it, you can check out the official after-event with Smiley and Cornel West at Busboys and Poets. It starts at 10 p.m. at the 14th and V streets NW location.
Art: We’ve recommended checking out the Corcoran Gallery of Art and Design’s “30 Americans” exhibit before, which displays heralded art by black American artists. The gallery normally charges $10 for entry, but is offering free admission from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday. The Corcoran is located at 500 17th St. NW.
PBS NewsHour / Flickr
The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, dedicated on Sunday as a tribute and reminder that King’s vision of equality isn’t yet fully realized, evokes an additional memory for those living in D.C. The statue is a reminder of the pain and frustration felt after King’s assassination, which gave birth to the 1968 riots that forever changed D.C.’s landscape, setting the stage for the gentrification the city is undergoing today.
One of Sunday’s speakers, president of the Children’s Defense Fund Marian Wright Edelman, shared this moving recollection from that moment in time:
The day after Dr. King was shot, I went into riot-torn Washington, D.C. neighborhoods and schools, urging children not to loot, get arrested and ruin their futures. A 12-year-old black boy looked at me straight in the eye and said, “Lady, what future? I ain’t got no future. I ain’t got nothing to lose.”
Mladen Antonov / AFP/Getty Images
What: The Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial dedication ceremony.
Where: West Potomac Park.
When: 9 a.m., Sunday.
Why you should go: The dedication of the memorial, the first on the National Mall to honor an African American, was initially scheduled for Aug. 28. But it was canceled due to Hurricane Irene. Although the memorial has been open to the public for more than a month now, the ceremony will feature remarks by members of King’s family and President Barack Obama.
Other events to consider: Greater Greater Washington is hosting a discussion between the authors of “Dream City: Race, Power, and the Decline of Washington, D.C.” In the 1990s, Harry Jaffe and Tom Sherwood wrote about the rise and fall of former Mayor Marion Barry in the context of D.C.’s political and racial struggles. D.C. is now going through a new round of changes. Washington Post reporter Mike DeBonis will moderate the talk, which takes place at 7 p.m., Monday, at the Shaw Library. (Disclosure: Sherwood is a resident analyst on WAMU 88.5′s Kojo Nnamdi show).
Mandel Ngan / Getty Images
The "Stone of Hope" sculpture of Martin Luther King by Chinese artist Lei Yixin is the first on the National Mall to honor a person of color.
D.C. is abuzz with activity with Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial dedication events, but there’s still plenty of debate over the memorial’s design and the nationality of the sculptor.
Some criticize that King’s face is too stern or militant. Others take issue with the selection of Lei Yixin of China, rather than an African American, as the sculptor. The project’s leaders have said there were no qualified black sculptors who could work with stones of this size or type. The Washington Post‘s Courtland Milloy writes, “Who gets the job? A Chinese national with an apparent preference for the heroic and authoritarian.” He continues:
Surely, having a black sculptor of a black civil rights icon — working on ground once toiled by black slaves, on the National Mall, designed and surveyed with the help of a black mathematician and astronomer Benjamin Banneker — would have added to the King memorial’s symbolic power.
So, yes, it stings when, centuries later, creators of the King memorial say they couldn’t find a qualified black sculptor.
We asked DCentric readers on Facebook and Twitter to post their thoughts and comments on the memorial’s design and sculptor. A few responded on Twitter by recalling King’s message of unity among races:
Elvert Barnes / Flickr
The public began visiting the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial on Monday.
What: A number of events are being held through Sunday in honor of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial dedication. The main dedication ceremony
takes place at 11 a.m., Sunday has been postponed to a later date in September or October.
When: Thursday through Sunday.
Cost: Most of the musical events are free, but check the official memorial website to see ticket price information for specific events.
Why you should go: The King memorial is the first on the National Mall honoring an African American, and this week’s events pay tribute to the historic occasion.
“Partners in the Dream,” a public expo with information booths and musical performances, is being held at the Washington Convention Center through Sunday. Also, the Millennium Stage at the Kennedy Center will host an hour-long musical tribute by gospel performers Maggie Ingram and the Ingramettes, R&B singer Raheem DeVaughn and jazz harmonicist Frédéric Yonnet. The free show takes place at 6 p.m., Friday.
UPDATE: Event organizers have canceled Sunday’s event due to the coming Hurricane Irene. The memorial will be open until noon, Saturday, for public view.
Concerts will also be held on the National Mall before and after Sunday’s dedication, where President Barack Obama will speak. As of now, Sunday’s events will proceed rain or shine, but Hurricane Irene could force organizers to push the schedule back.
Brendan Smialowski / Getty Images
A view of the construction site for the new Martin Luther King Memorial on the National Mall.
The dedication of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial on the National Mall is less than two weeks away, but locals can get a preview of the monument ahead of the Aug. 28 dedication.
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.