- (Reuters/Jason Reed)
Tourists who were hoping to travel to Washington, D.C. this weekend to celebrate the official dedication ceremony of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial on Sunday will have to reschedule their plans. The threat of Hurricane Irene hitting the area this weekend has forced memorial organizers to postpone the event.
“In consultation with the National Park Service, the Mayor’s office and FEMA, it is with a heavy heart and enormous disappointment that we announce, that in the interest of public safety, we are forced to change our plans,” said Harry E. Johnson Sr., foundation president and CEO, in a statement. They were already forced to move two ceremonial events in Virginia on Aug. 23 due to the 5.8 magnitude earthquake that shook up the East Coast.
Friday’s events are planned to continue as scheduled, the website says. On Saturday, organizers will hold the National Prayer Service at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. This will be the final official event of the dedication week. The memorial will be open to the public, weather permitting, on Saturday from 7a.m. to noon.
The official dedication ceremony will be moved to a date either in September or October.
The memorial is located at the Tidal Basin, between the Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln monuments. In 1963, King gave his famous “I have a Dream” speech on the steps of the Lincoln memorial.
King fought his entire life to make America a country of equality and justice. Despite his dedication to his country, his memorial, however, was not made in America but rather in China.
The Chinese stonemasons who erected the monument worked free of charge. When The Washington Post asked why they would agree to no pay, one worker replied, “to bring glory to the Chinese people” and to work for “national honor.”
The decision to outsource at a time when so many Americans are hurting for jobs angers a lot of people.
Many say that this is a contradiction to what King believed in. King was an ardent defender of labor rights and was actually supporting sanitation workers on strike in Memphis when he was killed.
“Not that I have anything against China but to honor the man who set the bar for freedom, jobs and justice to have his image produced in China while the people he fought to free are still enslaved is a insult and a crying shame,” writes Willie Carlisle at the Atlanta Examiner. King worked tirelessly to ensure that African Americans had the same job and economic opportunities as other races.
Currently, the unemployment rate for African Americans is 15.9 percent. That’s approximately 6.9 percent higher than the national average, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Edward Jackson Jr., executive architect behind the monument, insists that the decision to outsource to China had nothing to do with money.
“Not only did we need an artist, we needed someone with the means and methods of putting those large stones together,” Jackson said to The Washington Post. “We don’t do this in America. We don’t handle stones of this size.”
Others are outraged at the fact that the memorial was built by communists.
One African American sculptor, Ed Dwight, told The Telegraph that King would be “turning over in his grave” if he knew that his monument was made in a communist country.
Lei Yixin is the lead sculptor on the project and best known for his bust of Mao Zedong.
Citing these two frustrations – unemployment at home and King’s opposition to communist principles – many critics are asking why an African American couldn’t have been picked to lead the project – or an American in general?
"We don't want to take the stand to say African Americans can only work on this project. We appreciate the diversity we have," Johnson said to The Washington Post.
The Christian Post contacted the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial Foundation for comments, however, the phone call was not returned.