One Year Later, Screwed Up MLK Memorial Remains Unfixed

junkyardarts September 16, 2012 Comments Off on One Year Later, Screwed Up MLK Memorial Remains Unfixed
One Year Later, Screwed Up MLK Memorial Remains Unfixed

You know what they say about government in these parts.  And while I don’t necessarily share the sentiments of a certain platform, I can say that when it comes to art, the government doesn’t always (generally?) make the best decisions.

Take for instance, this awful memorial to MLK, that not only looks like a giant angry dude coming from a stone wall, but it includes an inscription that completely misrepresents the subjects actual words.

And after a year of outrage over these issues, the sculpture remains unchanged despite promises to fix it. What in holy hell is going on here?

First of all, FIRST OF ALL, let’s talk about the general look of the sculpture.  I understand what Chinese sculptor Lei Yixin was going for.  I do.  Martin Luther King Jr., a rock of American perseverance, stalwart in his fight for equality and peace.  And yet we get a gigantic sculpture of the man looking, pardon the expression, stone cold.  The disconnect between showing stoicism and stubbornness is apparent here, as the expression on his face and his arms being crossed puts out an air of stand-offish-ness, which clearly was not the intent, at least I hope not.

On another note, I find making the sculpture fucking enormous takes away from the fact that while MLK was a big figure, he was still a man.  And the best part of his legacy, in my opinion, is showing that one man can make a huge impact on not just our communities but around the world.  He was just a man.  And this sculpture, the size of a small building, looks more like that or a dictator than of an inspirational American figure.  The symbolism is a bit on the nose.  On the tip of a giant, white, stone nose.

So to get to the biggest issue of them all, somehow in everyone’s collective infinite wisdom, an inscription is placed on the side of the sculpture.  The inscription says “I was a drum major for justice, peace and righteousness.”  Which isn’t untrue.  But it’s not what the man said.  In fact the real quote reads as follows, not the change in tone:

“Yes, if you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice. Say that I was a drum major for peace. I was a drum major for righteousness. And all of the other shallow things will not matter.”

mlk memorial sculpture national mall

Big difference.  And yet, someone (the artist? the MLK Foundation? Park Service? Someone?!) approved the first quote after presumably doing some goddamned research and somehow decided they could change up the quote and permanently slap it on the side of one of the most anticipated sculptures of the past 20 years in DC.

So tell me how the fuck that happened?

How the fuck.  The fuck does a sculpture getting erected on the National Mall, of one of our national treasures and most influential American personalities in the history of our county, not go through the simplest of fucking check points and not one person says “Hey guys, that’s not what he said.  Maybe we should just put up the actual quote, eh?”.  But they didn’t.  They put up a paraphrase that not only misrepresents his actual words, but makes him sound like a dick as well.  The least they could have done was say HE was a drum major for justice, as to not make MLK sound like a pompous ass on his own memorial.

So now, the U.S. Department of the Interior ordered that the memorial should display the full quote and renovations are scheduled for ‘after the summer’ as to not disturb the tourism season.  Yes.  Let’s ensure another few thousand people get to see the misquote rather than jumping to solve the problem that should never have fucking happened in the first place.  Oy.  I can’t even.


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