MLK Memorial (statue) to be redisigned, causing discussion among Black Blogosphere

I’m happy to announce a third contributor to Dallas South, this time a blogger. Ruth from Vibrant Life will post here from time to time. For her first post, Ruth is discussing something near and dear to my heart: The Martin Luther King Memorial.

Near and dear because dear old A Phi A initiated the memorial and I’ve put quite a few dollars into the project over the years. I hope you enjoy Ruth’s take as much as I did, and please welcome her to the Dallas South family!


By Ruth of Vibrant Life

The Washington Post story and photos have black blog-sphere discussing the current controversy Mlk_design surrounding Dr. MLK Jr’s proposed statute design by Chinese master sculptor Lei Yixin. The commission which by law must approve the final design describes it as too confrontational. This term has generated an initial reaction of criticism from blacks suggesting that only a less threatening image of Dr. King will satisfy a white audience. I really do not agree with that theory.

First, sorry call me a protectionist, but I do have a problem with the idea that once again we are “outsourcing” something to China. Recognizing that Dr. King’s mission changed not only our nation but thus the world – he certainly championed American workers of all stripes but could we not pay homage to him through the talent of an American artist? Some say that perspective is bigoted – not intended so sorry if that is the take away. Also, in fairness, keeping in mind that our best known statue is likely the Statute of Liberty – a gift from France – I have no idea who designed the other monuments in Washington.

Regarding the design – sorry but it does not capture the spirit of Dr. King’s legacy. Some are tripping up over the commission’s term “confrontational” with the man emerging from stone and folded arms. That is not what bothers me – humility is not a sign of weakness in the message of the Gospel – bearing in mind Dr. King never sat aside that he was a minister of God first and foremost. This image does not reflect humility. When I think of the greatness of Dr. King’s message it was that he helped to generate so much change through peaceful – intelligent – challenge for change. Certainly he had no problem with standing on the frontline and spending many nights in jail. But it was not done with an air of arrogance, which this image projects.

We each take away from common history that which speaks to us most. For some it was his community organizing skills, for many it was his oratory skills and ability to move a nation beyond their fears to their humanity, for me it was his ability to combine those forces. He crafted a movement that inspired the working men and women to risk their lives, while through his intellect he moved the white community beyond their fears and comfort with the status quo. He spoke with such authenticity to both audiences that he was able to help them find common ground. Dare I say, and you knew I would have to mention our friend, that is part of the appeal of the presumptive Democratic party nominee, Senator Barack Obama.

On a side note, I must say that the image of his features are a good representation.

To return to the discussion regarding the Chinese designer some have suggested the image reflects a persona more common with totalitarian ideals and even reminds them of Lenin. Perhaps the designer is influenced, though he is in exile for speaking out about his country’s policies I believe, by the political climate of his homeland. But I believe Dr. King’s character was attacked enough in that area in life, and I would not want a design selected that would reopen that debate.

Sadly I cannot draw a tree…LOL…no I really can’t. So it is not my place to lecture someone with great talent but to advise the decision makers to remember this is a man who looms very large today even among those of us too young to know Dr. King beyond videos and written speeches. They will never satisfy everyone, but I think a great deal of people can agree – the current design is not the right direction.

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