Due to inclement weather, at an undetermined future date, a monument to perhaps the most well respected African-American ever, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., is being dedicated on the National Mall.
It will be a day to be remembered and cherished not just for Black people, but for America, because it honors King’s sacrifice in striving to make the U.S. Constitution and the Declaration of Independence—documents that originally excluded all but White male landowners—promise.
That’s why it is so shocking that there were so few rich Black people on the list of major donors ($100,000 or more) to see this 15-year project to fruition.
Yes, millions of Black people are still suffering from a form of economic apartheid that lingers despite gigantic steps this country has made toward racial equality.
However, there are more Black millionaires now than any time in American history and the question must be asked, “Where were they” when Harry Johnson, the CEO of the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation, dispatched his staff and volunteers in a massive fundraising effort?
There is still a little less then $6 million yet to be paid for this extraordinary monument and the grounds on which it sits, so, “Where are they now?”
Corporate donors were generous; General Motors led the way with $10 million, Tommy Hilfiger ($6 million), Alpha Phi Alpha, MLK’s fraternity ($3.5 million), the NBA ($3 million), Disney ($2.7 million), Verizon ($2 million), General Electric ($1.2 million), FedEx ($1 million), the NFL Players Association, and Viacom/BET/MTV ($1 million) accounted some of the top contributors.
The NFL, perhaps awakened by news reports of missing entities from the major donor list, announced Friday it is donating $1 million.
Among top individual donors were the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation ($3 million), BET co-founder Sheila Johnson ($1 million), filmmaker George Lucas ($1 million) and rock guitarist Carlos Santana and his ex-wife Deborah ($100,000).
Morehouse University, King’s alma mater, kicked in $500,000.
According to the 2009 Forbes Magazine list, the wealthiest Black Americans are Oprah Winfrey ($2.7 billion and counting); BET co-founder Robert Johnson, who got $3 billion from Viacom when he sold his network in 2000; golfer Tiger Woods; ex-NBA stars Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan, real estate magnates Don Peebles and Quintin Primo III; Junior Bridgeman, who parlayed money from an NBA career into the ownership of over nearly 300 Wendy’s and Chili’s restaurants; and American Express CEO Ken Chenault.
When the memorial broke ground in 2006 among the list of superstars on hand were Winfrey, Angela Bassett, Whoopi Goldberg, Samuel L. Jackson, Al Roker and Laurence Fishbourne. Despite their heavy presence in the marketing and fundraising efforts, none of them cracked the $100,000 or more list.
(Reprinted from the Philadelphia Tribune.)