- Faith & Family
Walk north on Independence Avenue; cross 15th Street towards the Smithsonian Castle; traverse the landscaped path around the Washington Monument; and cross the Kutz Bridge over the Tidal Basin. This marks the arrival at 1964 Independence Avenue — a path that many of the 382,000 people have taken to view the momentous Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial since its opening last August. The memorial is prominently displayed 1/4-mile from the Jefferson Memorial and 1/2-mile from the Lincoln Memorial. According to Waverly Debraux, a first-time visitor to the area, “the fact that the monument is set apart from everything else and stands alone is inspirational.”
The memorial is composed of both a sculpture and an inscription wall containing quotes taken from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s speeches that he made during the Montgomery Bus Boycott of 1955 to statements made in the days leading up to his death in 1968.
The 28-foot, 6-inch sculpture of King was designed by Chinese artist, Lei Yixin and represents the leader’s historical text, “Out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope,” which is written on the side of the sculpture. The opposite side reads, “I was a drum major for justice, peace and righteousness” — a reference to how he said he would like to be remembered. Visitors pass through the entrance to the Memorial between the separated mountain of despair and approach the solitary stone of hope of King looking across the horizon.
There has been heavy anticipation from tourists across the nation to view the Memorial. Beverly Coster, a visitor from Clearlake near Houston, Texas said, “I was so excited to see the monument that I went directly from the airport to the Memorial before checking into my hotel.”
Major Roger Woodruff of Philadelphia remembers hearing Martin Luther King, Jr.’s voice on the television when he was just five-years-old and described the monument as being “long overdue, but a beautiful tribute.”
Although this physical tribute to Martin Luther King, Jr. has been heavily publicized, there are still some that have not heard of its construction. Fenta Zelkarias, an Ethiopian-American from Virginia happened to be walking along the path towards the MLK Memorial and was surprised by its presence.
“I had not known about the monument previously, but I immediately recognized who was depicted in the Memorial,” he said. “It is a confirmation that Martin Luther King’s vision will not die.”
by Adrienne Jordan
Miami Times writer