I can’t tell you how thrilled I was to be in Washington, DC for the MLK, Jr. Memorial and Dedication. As you know the weekends events including the dedication were canceled due to Hurricane Irene, that had a direct path up the the east coast of the United States. Because of the uncertainty of the velocity of the hurricane/storm, the events organizers with consultation from the city and FEMA, thought it would be in the best interest and safety of all to make the decision to cancel the weekends activities. While I initially thought the decision was made too early, our friend, Alpha Phi Alpha alumni and Greats Lakes Zone Director Multicultural Markets at State Farm Insurance, advised us that one of the main reasons the decision was made early was because of the number of travelers coming for the day by bus. It could have been disastrous to have people stranded on a bus and without shelter. Fortunately for those who were already in town, the Memorial was opened earlier in the week and stayed open until noon Saturday. This gave us the opportunity to see the Memorial. As they are saying, there is a King among Presidents on the National Mall in Washington, DC. The MLK, Jr. Memorial is not only the first person of color represented on the Mall but is the only non-president on the Mall. This makes for a Monumental occasion!!!
We arrived on Thursday afternoon along with many others who flew in on American Airlines. We saw so many Alpha’s at the airport and on the plane with us. The Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, one of the major contributors, had their own list of activities and events for the Memorial and Dedication weekend. The men I met along the way, of all ages, were so proud to be a part of this Memorial. I got a glimpse of the Alpha’s at their private event and visit to the Memorial. All the men were dressed in black and gold, the fraternity’s colors, marching toward King’s statue. Thursday evening the announcement was made that there would be cancellations of the some of the events.
|Craig, Bonnie, Ja’Vonne, Wayne|
|Bonnie, Craig Gilmore, Ja’Vonne|
|Denyce Graves & Ja’Vonne Harley (Me)|
So, Friday we made a concerted effort to see and do as much as we could before Irene showed up in Washington, DC. Friday, actually turned out to be a beautiful day. It rained in the morning and quickly gave way to a partly cloudy day. We started our day with our radio broadcast from the Washington Convention Center. The convention center was to be the venue of many of the events throughout the weekend. On this day they still had the exhibition hall open, although it would close earlier than scheduled, the ladies of legend luncheon and the radio broadcasts. We then did some shopping around the exhibit hall. The MLK Memorial Book Store was there and where we spent most of our money and time. We purchased commemorative items and I got a piece of the granite stone that was used to carve the Mountain of Despair that King protrudes from. There were 5,000 pieces and I got one of them. After our shopping spree we headed over to Constitution hall to interview and visit with one of my high school friends and famous mezzo soprano, Denyce Graves, who was also performing later that night. We were there during the rehearsals of the APA’s Theatrical & Musical Celebration Honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. We were able to catch Denyce in her dressing room. Now, we’re off to the main attraction…The MLK, Jr. Memorial!!! Not know where to enter, I looked at the map from the event schedule and directions from different Metro stations. They all directed us to 15th Street. This was a little confusing since I saw the entry portal on 17th Street. Anyway Bonnie and I walked down 18th Street and headed towards 15th Street, but then I questioned this decision and headed back up Independence Avenue to 17th Street before we had gone too far and there it was. We saw two pillars of stone and lots of people coming and going. The two pillars of stone are the entry portal. As you walk through the entry portal you see one 30 foot stone, to the left and right is a wall of quotes (The Inscription Wall) that bends around the Memorial like arms stretched out wide. On each side of the stone is a quote “Out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope” and “I was a drum major for justice, peace and righteousness”. Then you see King, coming out of the stone or mountain with arms crossed and facing the Tidal Basin and Jefferson Memorial. It’s a peaceful area that has a feeling of reflection. There are places to sit and visitors did just that as they chatted with one another. I can only imagine what it will look like when the cherry trees are in full bloom and at night when the Memorial is illuminated.
I’m definitely going back in the spring when the trees are in bloom!!!! Maybe you’ll join me!
Until our next journey together.
Ja’Vonne Harley, Co-Host – The Traveling Eye, Owner – Advantage International, LLC