If you lived in the 1960s, you likely remember where you were when the news of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s death cast its shadow across America. The peaceful preacher’s messages of racial equality, social justice and non-violence, and his relentless leadership moved or for some, terrified the nation.
Some 42 years later, King can still pack a crowd. King’s memory inspires sold-out breakfast and dinner celebrations every year throughout the Chesapeake area and the nation.
At this year’s breakfast at Anne Arundel Community College, the Rev. Frank Reid, pastor of Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Baltimore, got the crowd affirming that each person can indeed do great things.
By buying their tickets, they already had. For money from each $25 breakfast and $40 dinner ticket, plus donations, are incubating to accomplish something great ahead.
They’re helping bring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to Anne Arundel Community College. He’s arriving this summer in the form of a nine-foot-tall bronze statue of King on a six-foot pedestal, surrounded by a semi-circle wall with bronze plaques explaining King’s philosophy.
“There’s no statue to Dr. Martin Luther King anywhere in Maryland,” Martin Luther King Committee Chairman Carl Snowden told Bay Weekly. “We’re looking at how to preserve the teaching principles and legend of Dr. Martin Luther King. The best way is to have the memorial at an educational institution of higher learning where future generations will have the opportunity to learn from and carry on his teachings.”
Creating King is the job of Colorado-based artist Ed Dwight, whose Alex Haley quartet of statues marks the slave auction block at City Dock. Dwight has already created some dozen King statues. One, the largest in the country, stands in his home state of Colorado; another resides in front of the chapel at Morehouse College in Atlanta. For Maryland, he’s casting King as preacher and inspirer.
“It’s an imposing installation,” Dwight says. “His right hand is gesturing out like he’s speaking; his left is holding a book. For those who want to make it a Bible, it’s a Bible. For others, it can just be a book. It’s all about education.”
King’s statue and memorial plaza will stand between the Calt Building and the Cade Center for Performing Arts, behind the outdoor amphitheatre.
“King loved talking to the younger folk. They represented the new way of thinking,” says the sculptor of his subject. “And that allowed all these things to happen. When you get educated you end up doing great things.”
With education, Dwight says, comes change that benefits us all.
“A lot of people thought Dr. King was a rabble-rouser who went around making people feel uncomfortable. But he fought as much for poor whites as for blacks,” Dwight says. “In order for us to have a democratic dream, all of us have to succeed. There’s a lot of disadvantaged white folks, too, and a lot of that has to do with education.”
Before King’s memorial can guide a new generation, the committee must raise $250,000. In a campaign that kicked off on the anniversary of King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, August 28 of last year, six months of fundraising have brought in $100,000. Still to be raised is $150,000.
To supplement the money raised by this year’s dual breakfast and dinner, the Baltimore-Washington Conference of United Methodist Churches has committed to get the news out to United Methodist churches all over the region.
The word is being spread by the Conference’s monthly newspaper, Connection, and from pulpits throughout the area.
“Our church is in alignment with many of King’s principles and where he stood on so many issues, like justice and mercy,” says spokeswoman Sandra Ferguson. “Because of who Dr. Martin Luther King was, we don’t have to do a lot of promoting. Local churches will take it from there.”
Funding allowing, Dwight begins work in April. Snowden plans a grand unveiling on the August 28 anniversary of King’s “I Have a Dream” speech.
To help preserve King’s legacy in Maryland, make a tax-deductible donation to: Dr. Martin Luther King Committee, Inc., P.O. Box 371, Annapolis, MD 21404.