Time arrives for delayed Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial dedication

Scaled-back program will be held Sunday

The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial is seen ahead of its dedication this weekend in Washington, Monday, Aug. 22, 2011. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial is seen ahead of its dedication this weekend in Washington, Monday, Aug. 22, 2011. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

Colder weather is forecast, less fanfare is planned, and half as many people are expected to attend the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial dedication Sunday, but organizers say enthusiasm for the event remains the same as it was before weather concerns forced the ceremony’s postponement in August.

“Though our plans have been scaled back, I am confident Sunday’s event will be momentous for all who … witness this long-awaited moment in our nation’s history,” said Harry E. Johnson, president of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial Foundation. “The dedication will be a wonderful way to celebrate the life, the dream and the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as well as democracy, hope, justice and love.”

The dedication, which will be attended by President Obama, comes nearly two months after the original Aug. 28 event, which was canceled because of Hurricane Irene.

Members of King’s family and civil rights leaders such as the Revs. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton will still attend Sunday, but the crowd is estimated to be roughly 50,000 compared to the roughly 250,000 people who were projected to come to town for the original dedication.

The August event was canceled less than 72 hours before the dedication ceremony despite organizers’ best efforts and Mr. Johnson vowing, “We did not bring you this far not to have a dedication.”

The memorial sits on the western edge of the Tidal Basin and is the last of its kind to be built on the Mall.

Visitors can reach the memorial by walking along the basin or entering through Independence Avenue. Once inside the memorial’s 4-acre park, visitors will be greeted by 14 of King’s famous quotations, carved into a 450-foot granite wall, or gaze up at the 30-foot-tall “Stone of Hope,” inspired by King’s line “Out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope.”

Carved from the stone is a towering likeness of the slain civil rights leader, standing proudly and solemnly with his arms crossed, surveying the sunrise.

The idea of a national King memorial was conceived in 1984 by brothers of the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, to which King belonged.

After President Clinton signed legislation in 1996 proposing the establishment of a memorial in the District to honor King, organizers soon embarked on a tireless fundraising effort to cover the $120 million cost, paid mostly through corporate and private donations.

Still, the foundation reports being roughly $6 million short. It reportedly also has had to pay the King family more than $700,000 for licensing rights.

The foundation also successfully fought in 1999 to have the memorial built along the basin within the sightlines of the Jefferson and Lincoln memorials.

Other concerns have focused on the sculptor, Lei Yixin of China.

The foundation has been criticized for not choosing a black American artist, and human rights activists are upset because Mr. Lei has produced numerous icons of communist leader Mao Zedong.

Others have said the stern-faced, arms-crossed likeness of King looks too confrontational and that the color of the imported granite mutes his blackness.

But those sentiments are not shared by everyone.

Those in the District for the original dedication weekend stopped in their tracks to consider the likeness.

Annette Martin, a longtime city resident, said King’s countenance made it seem as though he was about to turn his gaze from the Jefferson Memorial to say, “You: Do something.”

Others scheduled to participate in Sunday’s dedication ceremony are Dan Rather and Aretha Franklin.

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