- The Washington Times - Monday, September 8, 2008




Black American leaders and celebrities continue to support “the dream” and construction of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial on the Mall. But problems of transforming the dream into bricks and mortar remain.

On Aug. 28 an all-star ensemble of celebrities joined the Congressional Black Caucus members and other Democrats paid homage to Dr. King’s family.

But it’s going to take more than pomp and ceremony to build MLK’s monument. The project is over 10 years late. After Dr. King’s death in 1968, his fraternity, District of Columbia and gave the fraternity until November 2003 to raise $100 million to break ground. In 1998 Congress authorized Alpha Phi Alpha to establish a foundation to manage its fundraising and design. By 2003 the MLK Memorial project was still underfunded and Congress had to extend the $100 million fundraising deadline.

The MLK Memorial project has been wrought with money woes from start, even enduring obstacles from Dr. King’s family. In 2001, efforts to build the memorial were stalled because the King family wanted it to pay licensing fees to use MLK’s name and likeness. Eventually an agreement was reached and no fee was paid.

In the 10 years since Congress authorized the foundation, the memorial has experienced delay after delay. Compare that progress with the William Clinton Presidential Library. Mr. Clinton was still in office when the King project was authorized. Mr. Clinton’s library broke ground in 2001, cost $165 million to construct and opened in November 2004.

The foundation overseeing building the National Memorial project now says $100 million of the $120 million needed to build has been raised. King has a memorial in National Mall area and the third non-president to be commemorated in such a way.

It may not be tomorrow, but when the foundation finally gets into third gear, building the four-acre memorial plaza will take 18 to 20 months more. A ceremonial groundbreaking was held in November of 2006 in Radio City Music Hall.

The Fannie Mae and others have also been instrumental in the foundation’s fundraising.

Project doubters say “Why can’t they just let the past be the past and let the man rest in peace where he is?” But Dr. King’s lifelong dedication to achieving human dignity through well-being should serve to instill a broad and deeper sense of duty within each of us - to be responsible citizens and conscientious stewards of freedom and democracy - and prompt more of us to join in the dream.

William Reed is President of the Black Press Foundation.

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