A dedication ceremony took place on Sunday for the new Martin Luther King Jr. Statue that was added to the National Mall in Washington, D.C.
MSNBC reports that the monument is 30 feet tall and made of granite. The statue of King emerges from a large granite "mountain." The monument represents a quote from King's "I Have a Dream" speech. "Out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope," is carved on the side of the statue. The memorial spans four acres overlooking the Tidal Basin. Walls surround the granite statue with engraved excerpts from King's speeches. The Boston Globe reports that the monument is the first on the Mall to honor an African American.
According to The New York Times, the statue has been in the works for over two decades. In 1983, 20 years after the March on Washington, members of King’s fraternity, Alpha Phi Alpha, proposed the idea. It was approved by congress in 1996, and is now open to the public about 15 years later. Chinese sculptor Lei Yixin built the statue. This caused some controversy and left some people believing the statue should have been completed in America, CNN published.
Yixin told CNN though a translator, “Martin Luther King is not only a hero of Americans, he is also a hero of the world.”
Thousands of people traveled from all over to watch the ceremony. The New York Times said the dedication ceremony was originally scheduled to take place in August to celebrate the 48th anniversary of King’s March on Washington but was rescheduled because of Hurricane Irene. The statue’s back faces the Lincoln Memorial where King stood on the steps and gave his “I Have a Dream Speech” in 1963.
Many performers were scheduled, such as Stevie Wonder, James Taylor, Sheryl Crow, and Jennifer Holliday. Aretha Franklin sang the hymn “Precious Lord;" one of King’s favorites, the Washington Post reported.
King’s children and siblings, Jesse Jackson, Rev. Al Sharpton, and other civil rights leaders gave speeches throughout the ceremony. President Obama concluded the ceremony with a speech recognizing the King’s impact on our nation and his dream for unity, the BBC published.
“He had faith in us," said Obama, to MSNBC, “And that is why he belongs on this Mall: Because he saw what we might become.”