Today, Monday the twenty-second of August two-oceans eleven, the Martin Luther King Memorial unveils! About &*#$!$* time! Placed at Tidal Basin, a cozy post right along the Potomac River and close to the FDR Memorial Park and Thomas Jefferson Monument where the cherry blossoms bloom every spring, the MLK Memorial will be the first statue on the National Mall honoring an African-American. Through this week and next, the monument is expected to receive massive crowds between its varying times of showing. Next week, Sunday the 28th President Obama (he has my support) will head the official unveiling and dedication ceremony.
In yesterday’s Sunday Washington Post article, “The man behind the memorial,” reporter Michael R. Ruane talked about and interviewed Harry E. Johnson Sr., the man responsible for organizing, promoting, funding, etc. the MLK Memorial. A fascinating article about the lack of support Johnson often ran into mirroring the still blatant racism of our time, Ruane wrote of the process of asking for donations for the funding of the project as being half preacher, half salesman. In today’s economy and general overwhelming expense of things, major donors– those who can gift over hundreds of dollars, probably more like over thousands of dollars– are what these projects need. These projects need major corporations who may often look at these donations as tax write-offs. The money that I could give, or possibly you could give, would be appreciated but doesn’t make a difference. Although I am grateful to the donors who provided the money to help build this statue it seems like once again big business, big corporations, big money-holders are in charge of our environment, what we see, and who we remember.
All this is rather depressing news over the unveiling of such a great hero and peace-maker. And with the constant influx of negative news about the economy, world affairs, our lot in life, I constantly feel everything is dampened. It takes a lot of work to regain confidence. And while I usually like to write blog posts that express positivity and celebrate wonderful people doing wonderful things, I thought it important today to remember how much we are still struggling for freedom and equality. Thanks to people like Johnson with a strong work ethic and tireless sensibilities and who bring people together for freedom and equality do we, as a country, still have a fighting chance.
So back to being positive. After reading the Washington Post article, I remembered a story about a statue built in Detroit of Robocop. Earlier this year, the mayor of Detroit asked the people for statue ideas to bring some new light into the city. A tweet voted Robocop and the mayor quickly shot it down. But for the people of Detroit, they would not take no for an answer! Through Kickstarter, a project fundraiser website, everyone with access to the internet was called to action to support the Robocop statue with just a dollar or more if s/he pleased. Within ten days, TEN DAYS!!! the campaign raised over $50,000!!! enough to build the statue and begin the process of design and installation! How amazing the mobility of people when they work together. I believe in this type of cooperation and believe we need to have more of it. Thanks to people with the presence of mind to create organizational communities and place it on the web to reach a wide ranging call.
Maybe for some the idea of a Robocop or movie hero statue is silly, but when most monuments look to the past, this Detroit statue looks toward the future with the ideal that there will always be someone there to protect us in our time of need. That we can be stronger because we know that that type strength has existed before.
So to look toward the future of the next monument on the National Mall, I vote Harriett Tubman who saved hundreds of lives while constantly risking for own in the name of freedom. Or, even Henrietta Lacks, a black woman who died of cervical cancer in 1951. She is one of the most influential people safeguarding our health and American innovation while her name is recognizable by only few. Her name is not common around the household but well known to scientists as HeLa cells. Thanks to a sample of her cancer cells, which were like none they had ever tested on before, science found a vaccine for polio. Lacks’ was technically the first in space, for they sent HeLa in a rocket to test how cells would react in zero gravity. They have been extremely influential in the process of gene mapping, cloning, and vitro fertilization. Henrietta Lacks died many years ago, but she is still living wildly and helps us live. I think that deserves a memorial.