Dedication of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial

On Sunday, August 28, 2011, a historical event of the utmost significance and deep emotion was to have occurred on the National Mall in Washington, DC. The Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial would have been dedicated on that day had it not been for the approach of Hurricane Irene. The National Parks Service cancelled the event for that day due to safety concerns. This monument is the first of its kind in honor of not only an African-American, but also a non-president on the National Mall. An honor only previously bestowed on notable presidents and to memorialize the fallen in our nation’s wars. It has now been rescheduled for Sunday, October 16, 2011.

The dedication of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr Memorial is the culmination of the vision of four African American men who were gathered around a table a number of years ago. The men were members of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Incorporated, of which, Dr. King was a member.

Consequently, the process was begun to build a lasting memorial to the man often referred to as “The Dreamer.” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a man of peace, of great vision, and of deep faith. When Rosa Parks was arrested in Montgomery, Alabama for refusing to give up her seat on a bus to a white passenger, a young Baptist minister, Martin Luther King, Jr. was thrust into the civil rights movement. He participated in countless sit-ins, marches, and voter registration drives. He was also arrested a myriad of times and experienced violence at the hands of white police officers in the Deep South during the tumultuous 1950’s and 1960’s.

Dr. King gave numerous speeches which inspired and motivated participants to continue the fight. His efforts helped move this country forward in the area of civil rights. In the end, this warrior for peace and non-violence paid the ultimate price for his work to help people of color.

On August 28, 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, surrounded by famous people who believed in him and “the movement.” This is where he gave a rousing, moving, emotional speech entitled, “I Have a Dream.”

This man of faith, vision, hope, peace, and perseverance, was assassinated on April 4, 1968, in Memphis, Tennessee. He had been in the city working on behalf of striking sanitation workers. Although James Earl Ray was convicted of pulling the trigger, many believe that he was only the fall guy. Dr. King’s death has long been believed to have been masterminded by unknown co-conspirators. Due to his work in the area of civil rights, there were those in this country who did not want him to succeed, yet alone survive. Even the director of the FBI during that period, J. Edgar Hoover, kept a lengthy dossier on Dr. King, in hopes of eventually discrediting him.

Although The Dreamer is gone, his dream continues to take shape. At some levels, parts of it have come to fruition. If Dr. King was alive today, he would have been beyond elated at the election and inauguration of Barack Obama as president of the United States. He would be so pleasantly surprised at the number of people of color in positions of leadership in corporate America, in addition to those in local, state, and national government positions. Even the advancements made by African-Americans in the nation’s space agency represent a few of the positive changes that have come about since the 1960’s. Dr. King would be so thrilled to know that his work resulted in all citizens being able to vote without fear of repercussions or death threats. Although I am a mid-westerner by birth, and was relatively young at the start of the civil rights movement in the 1950’s, as a history buff, I have followed events through the years. I have read all that I could about events surrounding that era in the history of this country. As a result of Dr. King’s efforts in the arena of voters’ rights, I try very hard not to miss voting in elections. I always tell folks that too many people died to give everyone the right to vote, and we should never forget or ignore that fact.

The ultimate tribute to Dr. King, on behalf of a grateful nation, will occur when the memorial is dedicated. It will be a great day of celebration and tributes of gratitude. Hundreds of thousands of people from all walks of life will be there to observe this historical event. Parents and grandparents will be there with their children and grandchildren to witness this dedication. It will be a wonderful day for everyone who contributed to the building of this memorial!

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