In the past few months there have been a flurry of articles and news stories of people up in arms over the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial and the committee’s choice to use granite from China and a Chinese sculptor. I am a follower of Dr. King, Dr. King’s doctrines, and Dr. King’s legacy, and I fail to see where a mistake has been made. The outcry has come because the sculptor is not an African-American artist or an American artist, and that the monuments should come from America. Let me address these issues separately.
I am a strong advocate for African-American artists. I love and revel in the works of such artists as Henry O. Tanner, Jacob Lawrence, and Ulysses Davis. Yet, I do not believe the artist who creates a bust or painting or sculpture of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. has to be African-American. He or she just has to be the best as what he or she does. The very best at what they do to honor not just the man but the catalyst of change he represented on a global scale. The body of work and the lives that Dr. King affected were more than American. And, while we have the honor of claiming him, we still have the obligation of sharing his vision with the entire world. As much as we would like to think so, his message was not – exclusive to African Americans. It would be a disservice to humanity to limit the scope and reach of his message. We can no more own King’s message than we could own Mahatma Gandhi’s his teaching of non-violence?
As to where the material comes from to construct the King Memorial, I say what does it matter? Are we going to start giving things back that don’t say “Made in America?” Then we would have start with the Statue of Liberty, which is made of French copper, and based on an African design. Don’t forget to give back the Liberty Bell that was brought over by ship from Whitechapel Bell Foundry in London, England. Oh, it is already cracked and I doubt if anyone still has the proof of purchase. We must redesign the White House because its design was based on Leinster House in Dublin, Ireland. Now, today, more than half of all Americans will be walking around nude, with no home furnishings if were to exorcise anything that is made in China, India, Japan, South Africa, etc.
I have seen a number of artistic images of King around the country done by American artists that are not good likenesses. I would prefer an image that is an undisputedly fine representation of the man. King belongs to humanity. The selection process of the King Memorial Foundation used was open to the entire world. This was not American Idol, not a popularity contest, and it was devoid of political machinations. Only “haters” would enjoy fomenting trouble promote disagree on such a noble effort at honor Dr. King and his legacy of an inclusive “Beloved Community.”
The King monument will be a symbol of the struggle for peace for America and the world.
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