On a recent trip down to North Carolina to cover the World’s Strongest Man competition, the Observer swept into the nation’s capital to check out the new monument to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.. The monument dedication was originally scheduled for late August, on the same day Hurricane Irene battered the East Coast. Wisely, the event was re-scheduled to Sunday, October 16th, 2011. The photographs were taken by John Murray, the publisher of The Waterbury Observer. The following information was taken directly off mlkmemorial.org, the official website for the monument.

   “Dr. King’s Memorial is situated on a four-acre plot on the northwest corner of the Tidal Basin adjacent to the Roosevelt Memorial. The Tidal Basin is a man made body of water to the south of the National Mall which acts as an overflow catch basin when the Potomac River swells, helping to prevent extensive flooding of the Mall.

The site is situated within the precinct of Washington, DC’s famous cherry blossom trees, a gift from Japan as a sign of peace. Before the King Memorial was built, millions of visitors would come to Washington, DC each spring to witness the beauty of the two week blooming period. During this short timeframe, the Tidal Basin is surrounded by delicate pink and white blossoms on hundreds of trees, a vision that enhances the experience of the Nation’s Capital, and announces the arrival of spring each year to its residents. 

   The Mission Statement – to commemorate the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by leading a collaborative funding, design, and construction process in the creation of a memorial to honor his national and international contributions to world peace through non-violent social change.

   The sculptural representation of Dr. King is not conceived as a pure figurative depiction of his physical being, separate and apart from other elements, but rather would give another dimension and layer of meaning to the experience of the memorial as a whole. Dr. King will appear as an integral part of the “Stone of Hope”, as if he embodies the stone itself. He will be positioned on the side of the stone facing the Jefferson Memorial and will be gradually revealed as part of the procession towards the Tidal Basin.

The view Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. has from his perch carved into “The Stone Of Hope” is of the tidal basin and the Jefferson Memorial.

A steady rain created a stream of water flowing down the stone carved head of Dr. King’s. It appeared that the Stone Of Hope was weeping.

   World peace through nonviolent means is neither absurd nor unattainable. All other methods have failed. Thus we must begin anew. Nonviolence is a good starting point. Those of us who believe in this method can be voices of reason, sanity, and understanding amid the voices of violence, hatred, and emotion. We can very well set a mood of peace out of which a system of peace can be built.
– Martin Luther King, Jr. December 1964

   It was announced in January 2007 that Lei Yixin, an artist from the People’s Republic of China, would sculpt the centerpiece of the memorial, including the statue of King and the “Stone of Hope”. The commission was criticized by human rights activist Harry Wu on the grounds that Lei had sculpted Mao Zedong. It also stirred accusations that it was based on financial considerations, because the Chinese government would make a $25 million donation to help meet the projected shortfall in donations. The president of the memorial’s foundation, Harry E. Johnson, who first met Lei in a sculpting workshop in Saint Paul, Minnesota, stated that the final selection was done by a mostly African American design team and was based solely on artistic ability.

Chelsea Murray from The Waterbury Observer does her best Mary Poppins pose and appears to be using her umbrella to keep The Stone Of Hope out of the elements.

   Within the memorial, quotes from Dr. King’s sermons and speeches, are inscribed at a large scale on the smooth surfaces of the inscription wall. These passages will be reinforced through the referential use of water, stone, landscaping and light as metaphorical elements that heighten an awareness of his message.