By Renée S. Gordon
ABOVE PHOTO: Visitors to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial on the National Mall in Washington, are seen on, Monday, Aug., 22, 2011. The memorial, for the late civil rights leader, is scheduled to be dedicated later this week.
(AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
On Sunday, August 28, 2011 the long-awaited dedication of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial will take place on the National Mall in West Potomac Park beginning at 11 AM. The ceremony will be book-ended by pre and post concerts at 10 AM and 2 PM. The dedication will take place 48 years after what most people feel to be a defining moment in King’s career and the nation’s history, the March on Washington that culminated in the “I Have a Dream” speech. www.dedicatethedream.org
Dedication events, a number of which are without cost, will take place from August 25th through the 28th. Citywide events, activities, displays and exhibitions will be held at various venues for varying lengths of time. www.mlkmemorial.org
On August 28, 1963 more than 250,000 people were present for what remains the country’s biggest peacetime gathering and to hear Martin Luther King, Jr. deliver one of the nation’s most well known speeches.
Alpha Kappa Alpha was granted permission to create a monument to Dr. King in 1996 by a Congressional Joint Resolution. McKissack & McKissack, Turner Construction Company, Tompkins Builders, Inc. and Gilford Corporation Joint Venture, the team responsible for design and construction, broke ground on November 13, 2006.
The memorial, the first on the Mall dedicated to a person of African descent and a non-president, is situated on a direct line between the Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials. It is designed as a landscape experience that employs views of other monuments, the natural setting and the three keystones of King’s beliefs, democracy, justice and hope and is designed to be experienced over time and differently in each season. King is firmly grounded between monuments to two figures that exposed America to ideals of equality and authored two documents upon which he based portions of his democratic philosophy, the Declaration of Independence and the Emancipation Proclamation. Water, stone and trees, natural elements, enhance the themes in King’s life.
Two monolithic towers are on the shores of the Tidal Basin and symbolize the “Mountain of Despair” and the 30-ft. sculpture of King depicts him as the “Stone of Hope” wrested from this mountain. A 450-ft. granite inscription wall surrounds the space and is hand-engraved with 14 of his most memorable quotations.
The DC Metro has a website dedicated to information on transportation in and around the city and to special events. It is highly recommended that visitor use public transportation. A specially created commemorative Metrorail pass, $9.00 per day, is available online and at Metro stations. Passes are valid for unlimited rides from 9:30 AM until 4 AM the next day.
It must be noted that the closest metro stop is nearly one-mile from the site. Parking at certain Metro stops is free. They are listed online. Be prepared for the walk with sunscreen, water and comfortable footwear. www.wmata.com/mlk
If you are planning to go to DC, either for the Dedication or in the near future to see the King Memorial, there are several sites that will add to the experience. Once again a Metro pass is a good idea.
One of my favorite monuments in the city is the African American Civil War Memorial located at 19th & Vermont Avenue, NW. Ed Hamilton’s “Spirit of Freedom” sculpture, dedicated to the black troops who fought in the Civil War, is situated at the Metro station. The sculpture is encircled by 209,145 names of members of the US Colored Troops (USCT). Directly opposite the memorial, 1925 Vermont Ave., is the African American Civil War Memorial Museum. History is presented through documents, artifacts and interactive exhibits. Special events are planned around the Dedication. The Descendants Registry is available for use by visitors to trace their ancestry from USCT.
Remember. There are no tickets available for the Dedication on the 28th. Visitors can still attend and stand in the unreserved section.
Packages are available from DC hotels that offer a variety of perks. The Fairmont Hotel’s Build a Dream Package provides breakfast, a map and includes a donation to the fund.
Several hotels may still be offering two reserved tickets with their packages. Complete information can be found at the DC website.
“We must forever conduct our struggle with dignity and discipline.” MLK, August 28, 1963
I wish you smooth and memorable travels!