Just some thoughts and ideas going around in my head while trying to figure out where I am and where everyone else is going.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Martin Luther King Jr. and my March on Washington or lack thereof

Well  yet another year and another reason to go to Washington DC and I still haven’t made it there. In fact I don’t think that I’ve been to that city in about 15 years, so I haven’t seen the Dr Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial.

I had thought about going to see the memorial when it was going to be officially opened in August of last year, but if I remember correctly, there was a hurricane expected and it was called off. When it was finally opened by the President in October, I thought I would go on Martin Luther King Day this year instead but I’ve missed that too. And yet somehow I still don’t feel bad about not seeing it in person. It’s not that I have any disrespect for the man or the cause or the beliefs and reasons behind the monument, but I’ve seen pictures of the thing and I just can’t seem to get enthused enough to make the trek.

President Obama and the First Family visit memorial

Now don’t get me wrong I’m sure one day I’ll make the trip, but right now I’m feeling too damned old to stand in the cold staring up at a humongous mass of granite while I pretend to look all tranquil and at peace with the world. From what I understand the monument is near or just off of the Tidal Basin and with just one good breeze blowing off the water and wrapping itself around my legs I would probably start cursing. Even if it was only in my mind, it would be some sort resentful diatribe against me, my parents and the good reverend’s family for making it all possible because you know black people don’t like cold and I’m no exception.

Plus from the pictures that I’ve seen the statue itself gives off that Soviet era Stalinist kind of vibe that you get of the arrogance of a “great man” emerging from the stone to defeat the oppressors of the people. Of course he was a great man and he and many others did much to defeat the ways of many who were against Civil Rights for all, but from what I understand this might not have been the way that he would have wanted to himself portrayed.

I only say this because the poet Maya Angelou complained about an inscription on the memorial that is a misquoted paraphrase of what Dr. King said, “I was a drum major for justice, peace and righteousness.” She said, “The quote makes Dr. Martin Luther King look like an arrogant twit. He was anything but that. He was far too profound a man for that four-letter word to apply.” Would then such a man want to be symbolized by a larger than life representation that leans more to the industrial might of his nation’s gratitude or the quiet certitude of his own convictions?

I don’t know. Maybe I’ll find out during my next scheduled trip in the spring when the cherry blossoms are in bloom in DC and the chill has gone from the air. Who’s with me?


  1. I understand how you feel. I see the Stalinesque stance to this statue. I am grateful for the memorial. And you are right. It is too damn cold for me too and I'm young. By the way you aren't old, just better.

  2. I wasn't too impressed with the images of the Dr. King Memorial beforhand, but I did brave the threat of the hurricane and was there the original dedication was supposed to take place.

    I was disappointed in the design and appearance in person. However, as I walked around and watched the reaction of others, my perception changed. I witnessed many moved to tears and saw young parents explain the importance of Dr. King to their children. I gazed as strangers nodded to each other as they read the messages inscribed on the stone and thought to myself: They are just as applicable and important now as they were when he spoke them.

    As with many things in this life, I and others tend to be critical. However, anything that reminds us of the greatness of the messenger and his message does serve a purpose: it inspires many to continue the struggle. I think that alone keeps Dr. King alive in our national conscious and in our national spirit. And that can only be a good thing.

  3. ♫Musique♫ - Thanks for the compliment. Next time that letter from social security comes telling me how many peanuts they hope to give me at age 65 or the peanuts plus 25% at age 70 if I work that long, I will tell them, "I'm not old, I'm better and I always will be," in my best Mommie Dearest voice.

    Roger - I get what and where you're coming from and I too intend to make the pilgrimage one day, I just, like Meryl Streep in the movie said, "Have my doubts."

    But then I guess just like when Tower Bridge in London or the Eiffel Tower in Paris were built, people thought they were too much like Disney or they would have if he were around. It just took a little time for people to warm up to those structures. It may take a little time for me to warm up to this monument.

  4. "Old" bones nowithstanding, I think a trip to DC to view it & stand outside the majesty of it might actually give you a larger sense of inner pride as well as the sense of being an eyewitness to just how far this country has come in your lifetime.

    Just a thought.


  5. One- Maybe you're right, maybe I will be impressed by the experience. Although knowing me, I doubt that I could ever feel the same "inner pride" that I felt when reading and perhaps understanding Dr. King's Letter from a Birmingham Jail. The real glory of MLK's work is his work and I try to carry that about with me in my soul. I'm not sure that could ever be replaced or equated with some questionable granite rock piece by an Taiwanese artist.

  6. I may have to make it to DC to check this out someday. Although I can handle the cold, I'm not a fan of it. If and when I do make the journey to check out the MLK Memorial, it'll be when it's warmer.

  7. Malcolm - Spoken like a true brother.

  8. I agree with most of the comments made in reference to this entry, and I strongly agree that a trip/journey to Washington, Dc to visit the Dr. King Memorial would be advantegous for you.

    I too need to make that same journey especially since I tend not to reflect on how far we have come as a people and much because of the works of Dr.Martin L. King, Jr.


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