In two weeks, the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Dedication Week will begin in Washington.
Sponsored by the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation, a variety of events ranging from concerts, galas, luncheons and more will take place in celebration of the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
To prepare for the historic unveiling of the Dr. King Monument, Politic365 had the opportunity to speak with Harry E. Johnson Sr., president and CEO of the foundation.
While Johnson said that this monument recognizes the ideals of Dr. King and everything he stood for, and he thinks the memorial has a deep meaning to African Americans and to the nation at large.
“To me personally, what this signifies is another step in the great history of our country,” Johnson said. “As we talk about the true diversity of our country, understanding that this is the first time that we are honoring – in this magnitude – a person of color, a non-president and someone who is not a war hero on the Mall … that’s huge.”
The unveiling of the monument, nearly 50 years after King’s famed delivery of his “I Have a Dream Speech” from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, is particularly compelling in the summer of 2011, as we witness relentless partisan bickering and the decline of civility and common courtesy toward fellow Americans.
Johnson is hopeful that this monument can be a symbol that harkens back to our better intentions for this country and for each other.
“Here is a memorial to a man of peace,” he said. “Here is a memorial to a man who talked – 40 years ago – about the same issues we’re dealing with today … economic issues … racism … equality…. Dr. King spoke about these things 48 years ago, so how apropos it is that now we dedicate a memorial to him. And the words that he spoke many years ago are still as relevant now as they were then.”
Johnson continued, “In the future, as we begin to peacefully demonstrate around D.C., and indeed this country, what better place to go [than to] the memorial of the man of peace to talk about peaceful resolution to our problems.”
When asked what he thought Dr. King would say today if he could only see us now, in earnest, Johnson replied: “I think Dr. King would reach out his arms and say we’re all in this together…. We must be unified…. We must be sure that there is a future for our kids…. We care about every person, no matter what color, creed or race … so, therefore … let’s start talking about living together as brothers and sisters.”
The monument is made possible by the Memorial Project Foundation, created by the men of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity. In addition to their efforts to make this historic project possible, they received support from all of the other African American Greek letter organizations and from the religious community, youth initiatives and businesses from across the country.
To date, the foundation has raised $114 million of $120 million needed to pay for the monument. To contribute to the cause, visit the Build the Dream Web page.
Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, Berry Gordy Jr., George Lucas, Jamie Foxx and Clarence Avant will serve as celebrity co-chairs for the Dedication of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial.
Members of the King family, civil-rights leaders including Congressman John Lewis, Ambassador Andy Young, Rev. Al Sharpton, Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr., and Rev. Joseph Lowery and Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar will play roles in several events in the nation’s capital to celebrate the Memorial’s dedication August 24 through 28.
Former Secretary of Labor Alexis Herman, General Colin Powell, Tom Brokaw, Maya Angelou, Alpha Phi Alpha General President Herman “Skip” Mason Jr., Tommy Hilfiger, General Motors Chairman and CEO Dan Akerson, leaders of the religious community and more will participate in Dedication Week events.
President Barack Obama will deliver remarks during the August 28 Dedication Ceremony.