Listeners Weigh In On MLK, Jr. Memorial

Visitors at the new Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial on Tuesday. i i

Visitors at the new Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial on Tuesday. Amy Ta/NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Amy Ta/NPR
Visitors at the new Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial on Tuesday.

Visitors at the new Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial on Tuesday.

Amy Ta/NPR

Host Michel Martin and NPR Digital News Correspondent Corey Dade comb through listeners' comments about the new Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial. Dade also talks about the ambitious way that King's fraternity, Alpha Phi Alpha, helped make the memorial a reality.

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MICHEL MARTIN, Host:

And now it's time for BackTalk where we lift the curtain on what's happening in the TELL ME MORE blogosphere and get to hear from you, our listeners. Corey Dade is with me. He's a national correspondent for NPR Digital News.

Hi, Corey. Welcome back. Thanks for joining us once again.

COREY DADE: Hi, Michel.

MARTIN: This week, of course, we talked about the new Martin Luther King memorial on the National Mall and, as we reported earlier, the dedication ceremony has been postponed because of a severe storm warning that has been issued for the region. The ceremony had been scheduled for Sunday to mark the 48th anniversary of the march on Washington where King delivered his famous "I Have a Dream" speech, not at all far from where his likeness now stands.

Now, Corey, I understand that you've been reporting about how this memorial actually came about and it's actually a very interesting story. Can you tell us a little bit more?

DADE: It is, Michel. Many people assume the King memorial was built by the federal government, but this monument was built by Martin Luther King's fraternity, actually, Alpha Phi Alpha.

MARTIN: How can we get more people of color to visit the National Mall?

So they started by raising about $4 million among their own membership and another $110 million and counting from corporations. And they did it by using their network of members to overcome several obstacles, especially Alphas who are members of Congress, CEOs of corporations who could apply political pressure, in some cases, and also help raise money.

So, overall, it's quite a story of triumph for an organization that really had no experience with anything of this magnitude.

MARTIN: Oh, thanks, Corey. And as I mentioned, we had a very interesting conversation about the King memorial earlier this week on Wednesday. We heard from his eldest son, Martin Luther King III, but we also heard from his former confidante and colleague, former Atlanta mayor, former United Nations ambassador, Andrew Young. And this is a little bit of what Ambassador Young had to say about what this memorial means to him.

ANDREW YOUNG: I get choked up every time I think about it because he knew what he was doing. He knew what the dangers were. And he used to say all the time, find something you're willing to give your life to and don't worry about death. Death will take care of itself.

DADE: Thanks for that, Michel. And a lot of listeners shared their feelings about the memorial and Dr. King on NPR's Facebook page.

MARTIN: While I am very proud that this man of peace has been honored, no matter what your politics, you have to have a place somewhere deep in your heart that makes you smile when you hear one of his speeches about equality for every American, no matter your religious beliefs, race, color, creed, sexual orientation. Wake up, America. This is a place for all.

MARTIN: Well, thank you, Kathy. And also, thanks to the hundreds of other listeners who wrote in and thank you, Corey.

DADE: Thanks, Michel.

MARTIN: And remember, with TELL ME MORE the conversation never ends. To tell us more, you can call our comment line at 202-842-3522. Again, that number is 202-842-3522. Please remember to leave us your name. You can also find us on Twitter. Just look for TellMeMoreNPR.

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