In clear, sunny contrast to the tempest Hurricane Irene that originally postponed it, the Martin Luther King Memorial was finally dedicated on a bright fall day. Several prominent speakers could not resist the mood and showered shout-outs to the “Occupy” movement which captured growing media attention on the same weekend.
Many drew comparisons between King’s memory and the Occupy movement’s emphasis on economic justice.
Addressing the large crowd at the dedication were Rev. Joseph Lowery, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Rev. Al Sharpton, Amb. Andrew Young, Rep. John Lewis, Dan Rather and (who guessed this one) Tommy Hilfiger among many others.
All of the surviving King children addressed the crowd at the ceremony except Dexter King, who is said to be spatting with siblings these days, proving even the families of civil rights legends are not immune from the occasional family drama.
As Occupy demonstrators make headlines all over the world, several speakers at the dedication spoke of King’s themes of economic justice in long notes of support for their efforts.
“The young people of the Occupy movement are fighting for justice,” Martin Luther King III said. “Sometimes we get caught up in the brand of my father, but we forget about the beliefs of my father,” he added.
“This is not just a memorial,” said Rev Al Sharpton, “This is a marker for the fight for justice today… we will not stop until we get the justice Dr. King fought for.”
“We’re gonna occupy the voting booth and retire those who stand in the way,” he added.
“Perhaps the postponement was a divine interruption and a reminder of the fight for economic justice,” Rev. Bernice King, the youngest child of Martin and Coretta Scott King said mentioning the Occupy demonstrators around the world. She said the “deep rumbling of discontent” being seen around the world reminded her of what her father stood for.
The dedication was originally scheduled for August 28th and then abruptly postponed due to Hurricane Irene. Organizers soon picked October 16th, the 16th anniversary of the Million Man March. Speakers kept their remarks brief but pointed to the subject of the late civil rights leader’s life.
Many speakers made reference to a lost time where character was the driver of decisions by public officials. When talking about Dr. King and the difficult decisions he made – in a life filled with uncertainty eventually ending in violence in 1968 – Dan Rather, who covered the civil rights movement in its early stages, said this: “We judge people not on the color of their character, but on the content of their money.” The line would be among the most memorable of the afternoon.