MLK dedication sets tone for fight for justice
GEORGE BARNETTE AFRO Staff Writer | 10/20/2011, 11:35 a.m.
People of all hues came from all over to pay tribute to the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, the only one on the mall for someone other than an American president. Charles Arterson and Baron Lewis, who say they marched with King, had no intention of missing this grand reunion. It was truly a long time coming.
The crowd, decked out in commemorative Tommy Hilfiger white hats, was mostly positive, cheering the speakers and singing along with the musicians.
However, there were moments in the ceremony that seemed more like a rally against today's ills than a celebration of the work of King. Several speakers used the podium as an opportunity to take on today's injustices.
"This is a marker of the fight for justice today and a projection of the fight for justice in the future, because we will not stop until we get the equal justice Dr. King fought for," said the Rev. Al Sharpton.
"Just like Dr. King talked about occupying Washington, just like there are those occupying Wall Street, we're going to occupy the voting booth and we're going to take those in who stand for justice and retire those who stand in the way," Sharpton continued.
Other speakers talked about the man, King, with sometimes little -known facts. Ambassador Andrew Young, a former mayor of Atlanta, spoke of King's only complex: his height.
"He was really just 5-foot, 7-inches, and he was always getting upset with tall people, who looked down on him," Young said. "Now he's 30 feet tall looking down on everybody."
There were also several musical selections. Stevie Wonder, Sheryl Crow, Sweet Honey in the Rock and Aretha Franklin were some of the highlighted performers.
However, the highlight of the ceremony was the speech given by President Barack Obama, who took the stage amid chants of "four more years." He spoke of King's will and how despite the decision in Brown vs. the Board of Education, King still had to fight to get the Civil Rights Act passed 10 years later, in 1964. The president said gumption and determination are what Americans need today to move forward.
"We can't get hung up on what is," Obama said. "We've got to keep pushing toward what ought to be."