John Ayers from the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. held a bus trip for more than 100 people from the Pittsburgh area for a sold out trip to the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Dedication in Washington, D.C.
“It was important for me to put this trip together because of his legacy. When I found out that there were no buses leaving from Pittsburgh, I didn’t want that to happen. I put this trip together and it turned out to be a major success. Everything about the struggle and everything that Dr. King has been through made this trip worthwhile,” Ayers said.
|LIFETIME EXPERIENCE—Pittsburgh residents in front of the new Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. monument. They traveled to Washington, D.C., to see for its unveiling ceremony Oct. 16. (Photo by Ashley G. Woodson)
Harry E. Johnson Sr. is the president and CEO of the Washington, D.C., Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation, Inc. He said it is important for everyone to know, that the memorial that was unveiled to the world Oct. 16, was built with the faith of so many people from so many different walks of life, united in the unyielding belief that it is time for a permanent tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and to his message of justice, hope, democracy and love.
Hundreds of thousands of people all across America took a giant first step together by partnering with the Washington, D.C. Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation, Inc. to help raise the money necessary to build a magnificent Memorial.
“It was so emotional to see the monumental and what it meant to everyone. I think it reinforces King’s dream that we are all one person and we are all Americans. We are all different shapes and sizes, but at the end of the day, we are all one people.
“I saw many different races at this dedication and it made us realize that we are all in this together,” Ayers said. “Ultimately as a nation, we are going to decide our own destiny. This was a day of first in America meaning this was the first Black President giving a speech for the first Black man who was a civil rights leader on the National Mall, who was from the first Black fraternity, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Incorporated. We move forward by making sure our educational system is competitive in the world and making sure we have a stronger economy.”
Celebrities, political officials and people from around the world spoke on behalf of Dr. King, and how his dream has become a reality. They included Cicely Tyson, Diahann Carroll, Rev. Al Sharpton and many more.
“The stories of the women of the civil rights movement are stories of our mothers, grandmothers, widows and wives, our sisters and daughters,” Cicely Tyson said. “These women were powerful in journeys towards freedom. They were pioneers, maids, athlete, volunteers and entertainers. They were incredible women such as Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth who worked to make sure all could pursue their dreams.”
“Like Dr. King, it’s time to turn our hopes and dreams into action,” Diahann Carroll said. “He roused in us a total commitment to his dream which drew a quarter of millions of us here in 1963. In those days I must confess that I was afraid to come to Washington, D.C. because it scared the hell out of me back in those days. I had good reason for feeling that way. Taking the train to New York to visit my grandmother I can remember that the conductor would ask me and my family to move the colored car. I asked my mother why? What have I done? ‘Nothing, she replied. Dr. King said that nothing was not enough because we had to start doing something.’ Thanks to King and the hope he inspired, we did start doing something and we are.
“I was introduced to Dr. King in Brooklyn one evening that we were to make an appearance on a radio program. He was very young and so was I. Since I was a young mother at the time, I felt bold enough to ask him, ‘Why a man with a wife, family and children was willing to live as a hunted man?’ Even back in the early sixties we all felt that he would never live to see his grandchildren. He explained to me that he had already put his house in order. His wife and children chose to walk with him on this journey every step of the way.”
Tim Steven, Chairman of the Black Political Empowerment Association, Brandi Fisher of the Alliance for Police Accountability and many other public officials from the Pittsburgh area attended the dedication to Dr. King.
“As President Barack Obama and his wonderful family approached the stage, I found myself approaching tears,” Stevens said. “This is such a powerful moment for us of color and for many others beyond color. Experiencing the first African-
American President presenting this memorial, it a powerful and great moment for Pittsburghers and people from Pennsylvania and for people from across this nation. The fact that we can come to Washington, D.C. and see this statue for the rest of our lives is a great moment in American history.”
“I am excited to be here mainly because Dr. King is an inspiration to me because of his civil rights movement,” Fisher said. “He has encouraged me to know that leading protest and fighting justice against injustice is not in vain. In memory of him and appreciation of his work I am very happy to be a part of this historical event.”
“I am proud and honored to see the unveiling of the memorial of Dr. King and this is a bright point in my life as a young person to be here. It shows me that we have come a long way, but we still have a long way to go,” William Anderson said.
The nation’s first African-American president visited the memorial with his family. The crowd cheered as Obama walked through the memorial with his wife Michelle and daughters Malia and Sasha. Everyone in the crowd was cheering “four more years” as Obama was about to make his speech.
“We had to delay this day, but this is a day that will not be denied,” the president said. “For this day we celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s. return to the National Mall. In this place, he will stand for all time among monuments to those who fathered this nation and those who defended it. A Black preacher with no official ranks or titles, but somehow gave voice to our deepest dreams and most lasting ideas. A man who sturred our conscious and make our union more perfect. King would be the first to remind that this memorial is not about him, but about all of us.”
Tears were flowing, people were cheering and everyone from around the world was united to witness this historical and emotional tribute to Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. This memorial will stand the test of time along with the Lincoln Memorial and the Thomas Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C., but we now have a memorial we can call our own.