Opinion: Controversy surrounds MLK monument



Raytevia Evans

Raytevia Evans

Raytevia Evans is a second-year graduate student studying magazine journalism and managing editor of KentWired. Contact her at [email protected].

Since the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial was erected, there have been some negative comments surrounding it. Last week, CNN reported that there have been some concerns about the sculptor’s depiction of the Civil Rights leader — going as far as saying the sculpture doesn’t look like King.

Mostly, people seem to have a problem with the stern look on his face and his arms being crossed. After spending Saturday and Sunday of the holiday weekend exploring The National Mall— the MLK memorial being the main reason I visited — I really don’t see what all of the fuss is about. And apparently, the huge crowd that continuously snapped photos of the monument didn’t have a problem with it either. The crowd — myself included — stood with their heads bent far enough back to take in the entire 30-foot-tall monument.

Personally, I was amazed by the detail of the sculpture, so I’m definitely not on the same page as those who are reportedly complaining about the monument. I think the words “Out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope” engraved into the side of the sculpture encompass King’s fight throughout the Civil Rights Movement. At just the sight of it and after reading every single one of his quotes on the wall surrounding the sculpture, I was more proud and inspired than ever before.

More recently, poet and novelist Maya Angelou has taken up the issue of one of the engraved quotes being paraphrased — essentially changing the meaning of King’s words and making him look like “an arrogant twit.” On the north face of the sculpture reads the quote: “I was a drum major for justice, peace, and righteousness.” The actual quote from King’s sermon two months before his assassination was, “If you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice. Say that I was a drum major for peace. I was a drum major for righteousness. And all of the other shallow things will not matter.” Angelou is now pushing for the quote to be changed so it will not make one of her close friends seem less profound than he was.

Though I understand Angelou’s point and totally agree that the paraphrased version of the quote changes the meaning, I don’t think this issue should have been raised in a public forum. I understand that this is a big deal because misquoting someone is the last thing you want to do, especially if it changes the meaning of that person’s words. Angelou was one of the memorial’s consultants, so why not just take it up with that particular committee? For so much controversy to surround a well-deserved monument of a man who ultimately led the Civil Rights Movement, changing the lives of African-Americans is trivial to me.