By Denise Clay
It was a week that began with an earthquake, and ended with a hurricane and tornadoes in some places.
But in the end, the memorial honoring the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Washington was celebrated by hundreds of people from around the country despite its formal dedication being postponed until September or October.
While preparations for the dedication of the $120 million monument had been in the works for months and was set to coincide with the 48th anniversary of King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, last week was more a showcase for Mother Nature. From the earthquake on Monday that forced some events to be moved or postponed to Hurricane Irene, which caused cancellation of the Sunday dedication event, she imposed her will on the proceedings right away.
Earlier in the week as the news of Irene brought her closer and closer to the East Coast, event organizers tried to work around her. But after talking with FEMA, the National Parks Service and Mayor Vincent Gray’s office, organizers had no choice, said Harry E. Johnson, president and CEO of the Washington DC Martin Luther King
Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation Inc.
“It is with a heavy heart and enormous disappointment that we announce that in the interest of public safety that we are forced to change our plans,” Johnson said.
All events after Saturday’s Interfaith service were also cancelled due to Hurricane Irene. The storm also prohibited many from leaving Washington due to bus, train and airline cancellations.
Another event, a planned march from the Lincoln Memorial to the MLK Memorial by the Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network was also cancelled due to the impending storm. The March for Jobs and Justice will take place when the new date for the monument dedication is set, officials said.
The week included a selection of concerts, lectures, and other festivities designed to focus on the contributions, ideas and legacy of the noted Civil Rights leader.
On Friday, the women of the Civil Rights Movement were celebrated at the “Women Who Dared to Dream” luncheon. Hosted by former Secretary of Labor Alexis Herman, this celebration told the stories of a group of people who aren’t always discussed when talking about the Civil Rights Movement: the women who fought for justice.
Featuring a poem from Maya Angelou and performances from India Arie, Ledisi, and Laila Hathaway, the celebration was a multimedia tribute befitting its mostly female audience.
Among the speakers was Myrlie Evers, former chair of the NAACP and widow of activist Medgar Evers, who was murdered in 1963. She applauded the fact that the organizers remembered the part that women played in the movement and the sacrifices that many of them made.
“Women known and unknown spearheaded the movement,” she said. “Women are a mighty army, even now.”
King’s sister, Christine King Farris and his daughter, the Rev. Bernice King, were the last two women to speak. Farris talked about the impact that their mother had on King and his mission. She also told the audience to remember that in order to continue to have women like her mother and her sister-in-law Coretta Scott King, they have to be created.
“[Dr. King] wouldn’t have been able to do what he did without my mother and Coretta,” Farris said. “We have to take time to mentor women into leadership positions. We have to support the visionary sisters who will lead us to peace.”
ecause of damage caused by the earthquake, the Interfaith Service was moved to the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception on the campus of Washington’s Catholic University. The crowd, which was still quite large, was treated to music from Patrick Lundy and the Ministers of Music and the Washington National Cathedral Choir.