It is a historic issue that MLK stands permanently on The Mall when one considers that MLK (with others!!) challenged the powers of D.C. And now he is "enshrined" or "memorialized" there.
I think it is fantastic that next to memorials built for Presidents - this Pastor has a place - no doubt because of his pervasive and powerful prophetic voice for Peace!
That is fantastic.
And yet - I am convinced Martin Luther King, Jr. would rather we extend his social, political, and economic advocacy - birthed from his religious discernment of justice and righteousness - than that we memorialize his "image."
I am convinced that if we set MLK Jr. "in stone" - as he now stands, hands crossed, on The Mall - and we let that become MLK's "concrete" image - we will have missed so much. (And we will place "his image" as the image of the March for Jobs and Freedom - instead of the many persons and young people who were also part of the movement - for it was the people's movement!)
Every time I have been to D.C. (five times in my lifetime) - I have stood where MLK stood to deliver his "I Have a Dream" speech. Personally, I genuinely believe MLK Jr. would prefer the simple stone carving on the stairs of the Abraham Lincoln Memorial - compared to the new monument some 30 feet tall.
I genuinely beleve MLK would rather each one of us can step into the space of the place where he delivered "I Have a Dream" - so that we can, standing there, in the same place, become partners with MLK in the movement he was part of.
While MLK was hugely important in various social advocacy movements - he was but a Drum Major - not the whole Marching Band. As important as his role was (and is) - I genuinely believe MLK would prefer we stand with him in the space of his words and vision - than at the foot of a monolith of stone. As we stand with him in that space, we take on with him - the vision of a dream for a better future and a better world.
I am excited that sometime in the future I believe I will go see the new monument in D.C. I look forward to that. But for me, standing in the place of the space where the Dream was proclaimed will always be more important.
That place, is for me, a place of Encounter with the best hopes for our extended future in our world.
With MLK - and many others gathered that day - I still gather in the belief that "we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!""
Toward eupan ~
~ marty alan michelson, ph.d.