People of all hues came from all over to pay tribute to the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, the only one on the mall for someone other than an American president. Charles Arterson and Baron Lewis who say they marched with Dr. King, had no intention of missing this grand reunion. It was truly a long time coming.
The crowd, decked out in commemorative Tommy Hilfiger white hats, was mostly positive, cheering the speakers and singing along with the musicians.
However, there were moments in the ceremony that seemed more like a rally against today’s ills than a celebration of the work of Dr. King. Several speakers used the podium as an opportunity to take on today’s injustices.
“This is a marker of the fight for justice today and a projection of the fight for justice in the future because we will not stop until we get the equal justice Dr. King fought for,” said Rev. Al Sharpton.
“Just like Dr. King talked about occupying Washington, just like there are those occupying Wall Street; we’re going to occupy the voting booth and we’re going to take those in that stand for justice and retire those that stand in the way,” he continued
Other speakers talked about the man, Dr. King, with sometimes little known facts. Ambassador Andrew Young, former Atlanta mayor, spoke of Dr. King’s only complex – his height.
“He was really just 5’7” and he was always getting upset with tall people who looked down on him,” Young said. “Now he’s thirty feet tall looking down on everybody.”
There were also several musical selections. Stevie Wonder, Sheryl Crow, Sweet Honey and the Rock and Aretha Franklin were some of the highlighted performers.
However, the highlight of the ceremony was the speech given by President Barack Obama, who took the stage amid chants of “four more years.” He spoke of Dr. King’s will and how despite the decision in Brown vs. the Board of Education, Dr. King still had to fight to get the Civil Rights Act passed ten years later in 1964. The President said gumption and determination are what Americans need today to move forward.
“We can’t get hung up on what is,” Obama said. “We’ve got to keep pushing towards what ought to be.”