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The King Memorial dedication, delay…

  • Written by Tony Nichelson
I went to Washington, D.C. on the weekend that was set aside for the memorial dedication of the new monument to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
 Tony Nichelson

I went to Washington, D.C. on the weekend that was set aside for the memorial dedication of the new monument to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. I was also there to spend time with family during our reunion.

My sister, Dina, was one of the principal organizers and fundraisers for the mammoth task of raising $145 million dollars, and staying focused on the mission of erecting the only monument for a non-president in the nation’s Capital. I am proud of her and the team that made it all happen. There was genuine excitement surrounding the occasion, but also a foreboding about a major storm that had been brewing for nearly a week, and now threatened the entire east coast.

Hurricane Irene hammered the Carolina coast on Friday (Aug. 26), and made its way to Virginia, D.C., Maryland, and ultimately, to New York City and beyond. D.C. officials and weather experts ordered the cancellation of virtually all events, including the King Dedication Ceremony and other peripheral activities. By Sunday (Aug. 28), Irene was just a memory, and the sun shined on Dr. King’s new monument to the delight of hundreds, perhaps thousands of visitors who remained, or just decided to show up on the historic day – the 48th anniversary of the original March on Washington.

The great expectation, and the ultimate disappointment of the cancelled ceremony was a roller coaster of emotion, and I especially felt for my sister and her team, with so much anticipation for the “money shot” of an historic dedication on the anniversary itself. She was misty, but we all assured her that it was a job well-done. The monument actually existed, and the world is aware of it.

The King Memorial will stand for all time, to symbolize the struggle of an entire race of people, and the firmness of their saying “enough, and no more.” Dr. King’s memorial is a testament to the thousands who marched with him, and the thousands more who lost their lives to the violence and brutality of slavery, Jim Crow, segregation, and now to inter-racial violence, especially domestic violence.

While the modern “Civil Rights Movement” is generally regarded as the period from 1954 to 1968, the struggle for freedom and independence started hundreds of years earlier, and continues to this very day. The problem is that African Americans are as confused and misguided as at any time in their (our) history. Dr. King would, no doubt, be greatly disappointed in the behaviors of young urban males. He would probably be critical of our selfish politicians or our “so-called” leaders for their failure to cultivate new leadership among our most talented youth, and in our adults for being so material-minded. And I’m certain that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. would be truly disappointed in the “Black Church” or the faith community for hubris and ineffective programs that scarcely reach beyond the parking lot.

I can not possibly speak for such a great man as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., but as a poor boy from South Memphis, who spends every waking moment thinking of our cultural disaster, I’m sure that what we see before us today is not what Dr. King and the others had in mind as a payment for their blood-sacrifice, their terror, and their dedication to their children… us.

How shallow can we be to allow so many of our teenagers to remain functionally illiterate? How blind must we be to not support fledgling businesses with good products?  How long will we wait for a new leader to emerge that seemingly has all the answers?  It’s not gonna happen.

The stage was set for growth and productivity for “the new African-American community” after the March on Washington in 1963, and after the turbulent 1970’s. It would truly be disappointing for those who came after Dr. King to squander a rare opportunity to live well in the United States of America. With only a few exceptions, that’s exactly what has happened.  

Yes, we were all disappointed in not seeing the dedication of the new King Memorial on Sunday, August 28, 2011. Still, the ceremony will eventually take place.  But I’m sure Dr. King is disappointed too, in what we’ve done for the least of these, and for ourselves since he left.

(Tony Nichelson is founder of the 110 Institute and public affairs director for the Citadel-Memphis Radio Group.)

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