Friday, September 2, 2011

Thoughts on the MLK Memorial.

I don't know which of the errors concerning the Martin Luther King monument, which was unveiled last weekend in Washington, D.C. troubles me more. Maybe it's the fact that it was outsourced to China, while I would have preferred a monument done by an American, not necessarily of African-American descent. Dr. King is often quoted on being judged by the content of character, rather than the color of one's skin. But the monument should have been done by an American, as the whole Civil Rights Era was so uniquely American in it's context.

Maybe it's the way the Chinese artists cast him in a formidable, and almost unnapproachable stance,which was so unlike the man himself. Or perhaps I was troubled by the way in which they mangled the quote used on the monument. In it's short, clipped version the words sound arrogant and full of self praise. They were anything but that.

On February 4th, 1968, while speaking at Ebenezer Baptist Chiurch, a mere 8 weeks before his murder, Dr. King spoke of what his eulogy would be like if he were to pass away before his work was complete. He did not wish to be remembered as a supreme leader, he wanted to be remembered as a man who stood up for what is right, and beat the drum in that cause. He spoke with resignation, as a man who was fully reconciled with his own mortality, his eyes were moist, and his voice filled with emotion when he spoke these words;

"Yes, 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."

This is the quote as it appears on the side of the monument;

"I was a drum major for justice, peace and righteousness."

Maya Angelou said it best when she opined that the statue, along with it's truncated quotation, "minimizes the man."

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