BY JULIANNE MALVEAUX
If one were to look up “tenacity” in a dictionary, one might well simply search for logo of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, or a photograph of the MLK Memorial Foundation’s Executive Director Harry Johnson Sr. In 1984, the men of Alpha Phi Alpha proposed a national memorial to Dr. King, and they continued to push until President Bill Clinton signed legislation in 1996 proposing the establishment of the memorial. The Alphas used their congressional juice to get an area and foundation established, and to take leadership in raising money for the memorial. One of their own, former Alpha President Harry Johnson Sr., has been indefatigable in his efforts to take the King Memorial from concept to reality. I am sure that there were times when Johnson wondered whether the dream of a King monument would be realized. This weekend, however, on the 48th anniversary of the “I Have A Dream” Speech, Johnson’s dream, and the dream of millions, has come to fruition. The Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Monument is the only recognition of an African American on the National Mall. It is the only tribute on the Mall to someone who has not been a president of the United States.
It is tempting to use metaphor to suggest that the inclusion of an African- American icon on the Mall suggests inclusion of African Americans in our society. It is tempting to use the grand sweep to discuss how far Black folk have come. From segregating to inclusion, with the inclusion reflected in the White House, with President Obama presiding over what is, unfortunately, a crumbling nation and a shattered economy. We can wax eloquent until the real deal of our national reality slaps us in the face.
This is, of course, to take nothing away from the majesty of the celebration of the monument. There is an excitement around the way this monument, against all odds, has been constructed and is being celebrated. But even as we relish and enjoy the moment, it is important to ask “What Would Martin Say” as we celebrate. He said, “The curse of poverty has no justification in our age. It is socially as cruel and blind as the practice of cannibalism at the dawn of civilization, when men ate each other because they had not yet learned to take food from the soil, or to consume the abundant animal life around them.” When he uttered these words, the