Diverse NPS: The Memorial Foundation

National Mall & Memorial Parks, DC

Diverse NPS►

Because of growing civil unrest , I joined a coalition of fellow park enthusiasts. Our group brainstormed ideas about how we could use our combined platforms to help. We’ve previously written about the barriers many BIPOC communities face when it comes to outdoor recreation. Statistics show that Black Americans make up only 7% of national park visitors (some studies show that it’s as low as 1%) while making up 13% of the U.S. population.

Each month, our group intends to spotlight one of these organizations. Past features include:

In our continuing community effort to highlight organizations who are working towards social justice and more inclusive public lands, during the month of January we’re sharing the work of The Memorial Foundation.

The Memorial Foundation helped build the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial in Washington, DC. The MLK Memorial is the 395th unit in the National Park Service and is the first memorial to an African American on or near the National Mall.

The Memorial Foundation aspires to a world in which the memorial serves as a beacon that inspires people around the globe to apply the principles of democracy, justice, hope, and love. They continue Dr. King’s work through Global Youth Leadership Conferences and programs at the Memorial.

Time lapse video of the memorial’s construction

Memorial Foundation Programs►

The Martin Luther King, Jr. Global Youth Leadership Conference:

A two-day learning event held in several cities across the USA. The program accepts the most highly qualified high school students from each city. During the conference, the students examine leadership principles advocated by Martin Luther King, Jr and acquire the knowledge and skills to enact change in their lives and communities. Upon completion of the program, the participants receive the title of Martin Luther King, Jr. Scholar.

Conversation Series:

This program provides a network to bring Leaders of Democracy together through social media, meetings, and events to share ideas. This collective effort is intended to fulfill Dr. King’s legacy of democracy, justice, hope and love and the mission of the Memorial Foundation.

stone statue of leader of civil rights movement in washington dc

Events at the Stone of Hope:

The Memorial Foundation hosts a brief program at The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial twice a year, to commemorate the life and death of Dr. King. The events occur on Dr. King’s national holiday in January and on the anniversary of his assassination in April. Both programs are open to the public and are celebrated with a wreath-laying ceremony at the Stone of Hope. There is also a summer film series during the warmer months. This year on October 15-17, the 10 Year Anniversary of the Opening of the Memorial will be celebrated.

The Memorial Foundation, Inc.►

Facts About the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial►

  • The Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, of which Dr. King was a member, began the campaign for the National Memorial in 1968. In the late 1990’s Congress authorized the fraternity to build the memorial on public lands in the National Mall and to establish a non-profit foundation to raise the funds.
  • The sculpture at the heart of the memorial is “The Stone of Hope”, inspired by a line from King’s “I Have a Dream” speech: “Out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope.
  • MLK took his inspiration for his advocacy of nonviolent resistance from Mahatma Ghandi. A photo of King in front of an image of Ghandi was the basis for the sculpture.
  • The Memorial’s street address of 1964 Independence Ave is a nod to the 1964 Civil Rights Act in which King played a pivotal role.
  • In 2011, the opening ceremonies for the memorial had to be postponed from August to October due to Hurricane Irene.
  • Sculptor Master Lei Yixin created most of the sculpture in his studio in China using 159 granite blocks. The blocks were shipped to DC and assembled on site where Lei finished the work.
  • Quotes by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. are engraved throughout the memorial to inspire visitors and honor Dr. King’s legacy. Here are a couple of my favorites:

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”

— MLK, Strength to Love, 1963

National Mall & Memorial Parks, DC

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

— MLK, Letter from Birmingham jail, 1963

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