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Sculpting Martin Luther King Jr.

(posted by guest blogger Valerie Strauss)


In 2009, a new memorial is slated to open on the Mall, between the Lincoln and the Jefferson memorials, dedicated to American civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.

At this moment, the sculptor who was awarded the commission to design and create a huge statue of King is working on it--iin China. A story this week in The Post by Ariana Eunjung Cha tells the story of Lei Yixin, chosen by the Washington, D.C. Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation Inc., as lead sculptor for the project.

Some Americans are unhappy, arguing that the honor should have gone to an African American--or any American.

King's message, of course, was one of diversity and tolerance. And indeed, friends both black and white have said they suspect he would not have minded that a Chinese man was chosen to portray him.

I understand that sentiment but still find it odd that for this unique American, in these times, the foundation did not find an African-American artist in this country for the job.

To be sure, it should not--and does not--always matter who creates art, even when it comes to our national monuments.

The Statue of Liberty was built by a Frenchman and given to the United States as a gift from France. It is as beloved a national monument as we have. The Crazy Horse Monument in the Black Hills of South Dakota--intended to honor all Native Americans--was designed by a man of Polish ancestry born in Boston.

It would be ludicrous, of course to restrict who can create art, to allow, for example, only allow Native Americans to build statues to themselves, or only Catholics to design statues to people who are Catholic.

Still, monuments are about symbolism, and should convey an idea linked to the person or event being honored. (I suppose one could argue that a tall white obelisk does little to represent the life of the Father of Our Country, but still....)

There is great symbolism in the King monument, the first on the mall to be dedicated to an African American hero. In a country still struggling with racial divisions, and a minority African American community still struggling to achieve parity with the majority, it just seems viscerally wrong that somebody from within that community was not chosen to do this work.



By Valerie Strauss |  August 17, 2007; 12:24 PM ET
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Comments

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I think it'd be different if they WENT to China to search for a sculptor to create the MLK piece. But they found and approached him in Minnesota.

The Washington, D.C. Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation Inc. is a collective group that VOTED to have this guy build it for them. Instead of people attacking the artist, maybe they should contact the foundation to see how far they looked for an American artist to build it. They didn't outsource it because he was cheaper. They picked him because they liked his work and approached him. I agree with the symbolism of having an American do it but you gotta take it up with the foundation on the artists they looked up. Apparently the guy the picked was the best one for the job according to them.

Posted by: DT | August 17, 2007 12:39 PM

I'm not sure that even being an American would help. US born artist Maya Lin took a lot of heat back in 1982 because she was Asian - detractors tried to link her with our enemies in WW2, Korea, and Vietnam because of her Chinese heritage.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 17, 2007 12:58 PM

I actually think the symbolism is perfect. In the news, especially here at the Washington Post with the Pearson "pants" suit against the dry cleaners, we hear much about the racial divides between the African-American community and the Asian community. The symbolism in having a Chinese sculptor create a monument to honor an African-American man who strived for equality and tolerance is perfect.

Unfortunately, I think the message will be drowned out by the same intolerance and bigotry that has been the cause of so many of the problems between racial groups in this country.

Posted by: M Street, D.C. | August 17, 2007 1:13 PM

I agree.

Posted by: DT | August 17, 2007 2:10 PM

I think it is perfectly appropriate to have someone in Communist China sculpt King, for he was as pinko as they came in his era. I am looking forward to seeing if the sculptor captures the essence of King--after all, how do you bring out the nuances of a serial plagiarist?

Posted by: Friday Knight | August 17, 2007 2:13 PM

Friday Knight,

I hope you enjoy hell.

Posted by: Tim from Silver Spring | August 17, 2007 2:30 PM

Valerie: There are several issues here. Lei Yixin is obviously a talented, world-renowned artist. Was his design vetted by peer review and found to be more moving and appropriate than that of other applicants? It appears so.

The question of the ethnic origin of Lei Yixin is beneath contempt and unworthy of further discussion.

But if the under-funded organization is using a Chinese foundry in order to save a few dollars and results will not equal those of a US art foundry, that is troubling.

I remember a bronze statue of Gandhi that was planned for, as I recall, Mississippi. One of Gandhi's descendants was asked what the Mahatma would have thought about it. His response: Gandhi would have hated it. He would have preferred investment in programs to help the poor become self-sufficient. Perhaps Dr. King would have made the same choice.

Posted by: Mike Licht | August 17, 2007 2:31 PM

Hope he doesn't sculpt quotes like "Is that an eggroll in my pocket or am I just happy to see you?" into th statue somewhere.

Posted by: I Keed | August 17, 2007 2:41 PM

The guest blogger is an idiot.

Posted by: Jon | August 17, 2007 4:28 PM

Valerie,

Isn't your reasoning a bit parochial after Maya Lin's Vietnam Memorial? What if people insisted that the memorial had to be designed by a Vietnam veteran? Or if the Air and Space museum had to be designed by an astronaut? Etc.

Posted by: KK | August 17, 2007 5:17 PM

Do you remember the day MLK died ? It was a Thursday around 6pm. I could not believe it! Just months earlier, he had marched near Shaw Jr. High where I taught school.I have never seen the pose that the artist chose for the sculpture. Never...there is something about that hands folded across the chest that...does not work. We have a piece of art at the Smithsonian Am. Art Museum that is wonderful! It was done by and artist from South Korea who came to this country when he was a teenager. His ideas of this country are different. He did not grow up here. I do think that it is possible that an artist who has not lived here...even though he says he read all of King's writing...may not have the feeling for a symbol for our National Mall.

Posted by: Judith Claire | August 17, 2007 6:34 PM

Do you remember the day MLK died ? It was a Thursday around 6pm. I could not believe it! Just months earlier, he had marched near Shaw Jr. High where I taught school.I have never seen the pose that the artist chose for the sculpture. Never...there is something about that hands folded across the chest that...does not work. We have a piece of art at the Smithsonian Am. Art Museum that is wonderful! It was done by and artist from South Korea who came to this country when he was a teenager. His ideas of this country are different. He did not grow up here. I do think that it is possible that an artist who has not lived here...even though he says he read all of King's writing...may not have the feeling for a symbol for our National Mall.

Posted by: Judith Claire | August 17, 2007 6:34 PM

Tim, I doubt I would enjoy hell--should I be there one day, for being in the same place eternally as that serial plagiarist and adulterer could not be that fun.

Posted by: Friday Knight | August 17, 2007 7:07 PM

I came to Washington D.C. on Aug. 27th 1963 to join the March on Washington with The Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr. The March was on the 28th. For the older folks, who were here, and involved in the Civil Rights era...the pose the sculptor has chosen still seems odd. Hopefully, the foundation members are old enough to appreciate those times and those images of Martin Luther King, Jr. and they will take a second look. I also watched the buildings on 7th Street, NW burn on that Friday after MLK was shot and killed. The teachers and children in Shaw Jr. High on 7th and Rhode Island Ave. N.W. also watched and wondered about getting home to homes that were on fire. On the next Monday, the National Guard was in place and machine guns were mounted near the Capitol to protect our "VIPs"

Posted by: Judith Claire | August 17, 2007 7:22 PM

Seems to me that folks ought to use their real names if they think what they have to say is worth anything...otherwise...it is clutter...and it suggests that they may need some other form of entertainment and perhaps, as Bill Cosby says...they need to get out more.

Posted by: Judith Claire | August 17, 2007 7:29 PM

"Judith Claire," I agree with you, which is why I use my own name. Your point would have more force, however, if you followed your own advice. For I know Judith Claire. Judith Claire is a friend of mine. And you are no Judith Claire.

Posted by: Friday Knight | August 18, 2007 8:43 AM

"Judith Claire," I agree with you, which is why I use my real name. Your point would be more convincing, however, if you followed your own advice. For I know Judith Claire. Judith Claire is a friend of mine. And you are no Judith Claire.

Posted by: Friday Knight | August 18, 2007 10:18 AM

Either we're a colorblind society or we're not. Imagine the outcry if a sculpture for the National Mall was limited to white artists only.

It's no less offensive to limit it to black artists.

Posted by: Hillman | August 18, 2007 10:22 PM

All of a sudden, I'm hungry for a slice of watermelon.

Posted by: Wearing Pants | August 19, 2007 5:56 PM

The real problem with this memorial is that it will be (judging from the picture of the model) huge and hideous and will not look at all like the late Dr. King.

Posted by: Namos | August 20, 2007 3:51 PM

First, let's move beyond the color of the Sculptor of Record and examine the process. Although the King Memorial folk held a competition for the overall design for the site on the mall (900 applicants paid $75, a total of $67,500 for the Foundation from fees along)... the group deliberately chose not to have a competition for the designer of a key piece on the site - the STONE OF HOPE. Why? Because the group already had a Sculptor of Record that it didn't bother to announce. It had Ed Dwight who also designed the Frederick Douglass statue in Anacostia, among others, to create a concept. He did and the group used the concept to solicit donations. Since it's protocol for the sculptor to design and then hire a subcontractor to build what he's designed... Ed Dwight and the Memorial folk went lookiing for one. They found him in June 2006 at a 6-week stone cutting event in Minnesota. But in Dec. 2006 when Ed Dwight complained that Lei Yixin had not yet caught Dr. King's likeness in his clay model... he was ousted and Lei Yixin was formally promoted on Feb. 16, 2007 as the Sculptor of Record. So the process had an odor to it because it wasn't fair. Few complained when the "blind competition" for the overall site produced a white San Francisco group (ROMA GROUP) as winner in 2000.

If you go to www.thegibsonreport.today.com
you will also learn that SECOND... there are three Fatal Flaws with the Lei Yixin selection... and it's not his color. For one thing... (I'll only mention one here) Master sculptor Lei is using the very pose that was rejected in 2003 in Rocky Mount, North Carolina. Then the dedication had to be cancelled when the town where Dr. King went and said..."Rocky Mount, I have a dream..." so criticized the statue that it had to be called off. The sculpturethat was built between 2001-2002 was criticized for being too arrogant as Dr. King stood with his arms crossed and his legs apart. For years, the statue sat in a warehouse.

So how does the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial Project justify using a design that has already brought outcry from African Americans? Certainly a quick view of Lei Yixin's portrayal of Dr. King in the Washington Post (08-15-07)can cause one to wonder whether he created a model of Eddie Murphy or as some claim, a Black Asian. Either way... this matter needs to be resolved before September 18, 2007 when a protest is being planned for the New York Dream Concert Fundraiser (www.kingisours.com).

We should not also forget that when many of us say... King is ours, we typically mean that he is... American. Resolution: The group needs to pay Ed Dwight $10,000 more than it is paying Lei Yixin ($132,000), put Ed's name on it as Sculptor of Record, and add Lei Yixin's name as builder.

Let's definitely begin here... with the end in mind. Harmony at the 2009 opening of a wonderfully designed national memorial for Dr. King.
OND

Posted by: G. D. Gibson | August 24, 2007 7:32 PM

First, let's move beyond the color of the Sculptor of Record and examine the process. Although the King Memorial folk held a competition for the overall design for the site on the mall (900 applicants paid $75, a total of $67,500 for the Foundation from fees along)... the group deliberately chose not to have a competition for the designer of a key piece on the site - the STONE OF HOPE. Why? Because the group already had a Sculptor of Record that it didn't bother to announce. It had Ed Dwight who also designed the Frederick Douglass statue in Anacostia, among others, to create a concept. He did and the group used the concept to solicit donations. Since it's protocol for the sculptor to design and then hire a subcontractor to build what he's designed... Ed Dwight and the Memorial folk went lookiing for one. They found him in June 2006 at a 6-week stone cutting event in Minnesota. But in Dec. 2006 when Ed Dwight complained that Lei Yixin had not yet caught Dr. King's likeness in his clay model... he was ousted and Lei Yixin was formally promoted on Feb. 16, 2007 as the Sculptor of Record. So the process had an odor to it because it wasn't fair. Few complained when the "blind competition" for the overall site produced a white San Francisco group (ROMA GROUP) as winner in 2000.

If you go to www.thegibsonreport.today.com
you will also learn that SECOND... there are three Fatal Flaws with the Lei Yixin selection... and it's not his color. For one thing... (I'll only mention one here) Master sculptor Lei is using the very pose that was rejected in 2003 in Rocky Mount, North Carolina. Then the dedication had to be cancelled when the town where Dr. King went and said..."Rocky Mount, I have a dream..." so criticized the statue that it had to be called off. The sculpturethat was built between 2001-2002 was criticized for being too arrogant as Dr. King stood with his arms crossed and his legs apart. For years, the statue sat in a warehouse.

So how does the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial Project justify using a design that has already brought outcry from African Americans? Certainly a quick view of Lei Yixin's portrayal of Dr. King in the Washington Post (08-15-07)can cause one to wonder whether he created a model of Eddie Murphy or as some claim, a Black Asian. Either way... this matter needs to be resolved before September 18, 2007 when a protest is being planned for the New York Dream Concert Fundraiser (www.kingisours.com).

We should not also forget that when many of us say... King is ours, we typically mean that he is... American. Resolution: The group needs to pay Ed Dwight $10,000 more than it is paying Lei Yixin ($132,000), put Ed's name on it as Sculptor of Record, and add Lei Yixin's name as builder.

Let's definitely begin here... with the end in mind. Harmony at the 2009 opening of a wonderfully designed national memorial for Dr. King.
###

Posted by: G. D. Gibson | August 24, 2007 7:32 PM

The Washington Post (8-15-07) missed some key points by talking to only one of the African American "Artist Consultants" to Chinese sculptor Lei Yixin. The Post talked to a University of Michigan Lecturer who is a painter, but did not question why a painter would be advising a sculptor. I called the sculptor Ed Hamilton because he is a cousin of mine and was told that he will be going to China in the fall to help Lei Yixin really capture the likeness of Dr. King. Excuse me I wondered out loud... "if you're good enough to advise him and oversee his work, THEN, you're good enough to be lead sculptor."

Check out www.thegibsonreport.blogspot.com for full details on how the lack of a competition for the sculptor like the one held for the overall National Memorial site... has left a bad taste in the mouth of many artists who would have welcomed the opportunity to compete for the honor of sculpting Dr. King.
Nelson Mandela's statue was unveiled today in London (8-29-07) to cheers and sounds of joy. Let's hope that will also be the case in 2009 when a pivotal piece on the mall - the STONE OF HOPE -- is unveiled. Now is the time to end the controversy and make sure attribution goes to more than just the subcontractor for the project.

Posted by: The Reporter | August 29, 2007 1:38 PM

To Gilbert Young:
Dr. King would hate you! You are limiting him in the united states, but he wants to go everywhere, expecially his spirit!
"It's ours" this is what you are claiming. Please keep in mind that all the right you have today is not only because lots of black people fought during those days, but also because a lot of white people said "It's not only ours! It's everyone's!" Please show your respect to these white people while you are respecting Dr. King. Don't forget them! I appreciate if someone lists those names out following my reply.
There are many wars in Africa. All of us are showing sympathy to those people who are killed. But .to Chinese, you are leading others to ignore those people who are killed. Your eyes are so selective! This definitely shows you are racism to chinese. Even, you are saying this for sculpting Dr. King's statue. You are insulting Dr. King! You are insulting all the black people who follows Dr. King!
I appreciate if someone posts my above words everythere.

Posted by: Pe | September 9, 2007 8:50 PM

Ethnicity aside... the work is NOT ORIGINAL. IT is emulating and imitating a monument of Dr. King that ALREADY EXISTS by american sculptor Erik Blome(who is white) www.figurativeartstudio.com. That sculpture is in Rocky Mount North Carolina and the sculptor took immense heat from 2003-2006 because he was white and had the audacity to sculpt Dr. King. They took it down, put it back up and called him names. Now his work is being duplicated by a chinese native hired by the Memorial Commisson in Washington DC?? Truly wierd.

Posted by: Original Sculptor | September 16, 2007 9:40 AM

For those who do not know me, I'd like to introduce myself (especially to "Pe" who claims that Dr. King would hate me. I, of course, beg to differ). I am a 66 year old African American artist. My work is considered "socially conscious". For more than 50 years I've created artwork that glorifies the beauty, the history, and the culture of African American people. My work is sold in galleries and gift shops around the world. My pieces have been in movies, and used as set decorations on television shows. I have been commissioned by organizations nationwide to create commemorative works of art. Procter & Gamble commissioned me to create the Salute to Greatness Award presented annually by the King Center here in Atlanta.

I am old enough to have witnessed first hand prejudice, bigotry and Jim Crow, and I survived it with bitter memories. If you remember history you'll hear only truth when I say that African Americans are not native to this country. We are not immigrants. We did not choose to come here. Our ancestors were brought here by force. Our most indelible footprint in history has been that we as a people are the descendants of those who survived the horrendous institution known as the system of American Slavery.

There are those whose names run through the history books, Carver, Booker T. Washington, Frederick Douglas, Harriet Tubman and others. Their accomplishments are condensed into a sentence or two each February, "...one hundred uses for the peanut..."

But that changed nearly 8 years ago. A handful of black men went to Congress to ask permission to build a monument to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.--African American man and descendant of slaves. He would be immortalized in a national monument in the capitol city of what is known as the most powerful nation on the planet. His monument would stand throughout time on the National Mall among America's greatest statesmen. African American History would be important to our nation 365 days a year.

But through misguidance and greed and ignorance and apathy, a few folk decided to hand this most important commission, this most incredible honor of sculpting the centerpiece of the monument to an artist whose claim to fame are his statues in China of the mass murderer Mao Tse Tung. A deal was made for the stone for Dr. King's monument to come from China, quarried using slave labor. The workers have no rights and are not even provided proper masks to keep the killing silica dust from their lungs. No granite company in the USA was even allowed to bid on this project before it was outsourced directly to China. How do you think Dr. King would react to knowing a monument to him was being built with slave labor?!

The King Foundation board members have one answer, and one answer only, when asked how they allowed such decisions to go forward. They quote King's "I Have A Dream" speech about people being judged by the content of their character. But King used that quote a number of times. In the "Dream" speech the full quote is as follows: "I have a dream my four little children (that's Dexter, Bernice, Martin, and Yolanda) will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character". In his speech, "Where Do We Go From Here," the full quote is "Let us be dissatisfied until men and women, however black they may be, will be judged on the basis of the content of their character and not on the basis of the color of their skin."

It is interesting to see how King's words are edited, how the focus is shifted by those who want to change the picture of who Dr. King was to fit their own frame. King was talking about how black people were being treated back then, and are still being treated to this day. He was talking about how he hoped the world would change toward people of color. The word "Negro" is used 14 times in the "Dream" speech.

My favorite quote of King's, and the one that fits this situation perfectly is "Injustice Anywhere Is A Threat To Justice Everywhere." And people from around the world, of every nationality and creed, agree with me.

The artist the King Foundation has chosen, Lei Yixin, did not win any kind of competition. He is said to have been recommended by a group of his peers. In an article in the Los Angeles Times, he said he was napping in the grass and was approached by the members who offered him the job. Yixin said he had no idea how important the job was until he saw the plan. The truth is Ed Dwight was the original artist of record for the King monument. He's a black artist who has created monuments all over this country. Yixin was originally a subcontractor to the project until Dwight criticized his work. Then Dwight was kicked to the curb without courtesy of a phone call or letter in the mail.

It's true, Dr. King's hope was that someday black people would have the same opportunities as all other people. He hoped that African Americans would be able to attend the same schools, worship in the same churches, live in the same neighborhoods, get the same jobs for the same pay as others. Yet here is our very first (and last?) opportunity to display our culture and heritage in the first ever monument on our National Mall to an African American man and we're being told we're still not good enough. The King Foundation feels there is nothing wrong King's monument being "Made In China." We protest.

We as African American people DO care that someone who has sculpted memorials to a mass murderer has been given the honor of sculpting Dr. King. We won't allow someone from a communist country who knows nothing about the Civil Rights Movement, nothing about Dr. King, and nothing about what King stood for to have his named carved into Chinese granite in the first monument to an African American national hero in the history of this planet. When we say King Is Ours, we don't mean he belongs only to black people. We mean he belongs to US. You and You and You are US.

King Is Ours
Gilbert Young
Lea Winfrey Young
& Hundreds of others....
www.kingisours.com
www.myspace.com/gilbertyoungart

Posted by: Gilbert Young | September 19, 2007 12:59 PM

Mr. Young,

You are flat out wrong! You have no idea. You simply want to put your name on this project and got rebuffed.

When you continued to try to get your name on the project and kept getting rejected, you got upset and decided that you would start a campaign against it.

Your petty and your ego is too big. Mr. Dwight doesn't even work with stone.

This Memorial will be built regardless of what you try. And I can't wait to see you at the dedication of the Memorial eating crow.

Posted by: D.S. | September 24, 2007 12:38 AM

Hi, there!..213f37ef4c8bd5b349f513d02a9080f5

Posted by: limewire | October 7, 2007 7:26 AM

Many years ago, I came back to Jesus Christ as a sinner saved. After returning to my home in Vermont to care for aging family, I was blessed to come back into my family's artisan heritage, to Barre- the Granite Center of the World, as a full-time US Granite Industry Sculptor. Apprenticed under my cousin, I now extend a continuous 116 yr family employment heritage as granite artisans.

Only a handful of us remain- around about a dozen in the entire US. I now operate my own studio in serving Elberton, GA- the Granite Capitol of the World- replacing my uncle who served there as Master Sculptor for 35 yrs. It's a tough business in itself-even without unfair Free Trade where we compete with workers physically dying to earn less than a dollar an hour.

My name is Clint Button, US Granite Industry Liaison to King Is Ours. I am the white guy standing besides African American Artist Gilbert Young to demand that this project be done, in its entirety, in America. I called him to help King Is ours because of my thorough understanding of the US Granite Industry and our very glaring exclusion throughout the MLK Memorial project process.

While the simplistic interpretation of our protest is viewed as race-based, our true protest is based on the process that denied all Americans a fair opportunity to participate in this project. On Nov 8, 2007, the Barre Granite Association sponsored a press conference featuring King Is Ours. In front of a 24 foot tall granite statue, Gilbert Young spoke surrounded by a dozen Master Sculptors and Carvers- including the three who actually produced that 24 foot tall statue, one of which is my cousin that apprenticed me.

MLK Memorial Foundation Harry Johnson responded in the press saying of our craft, "It is a lost art, if you will." After the press conference, all went back to the studios, picked up their tools and went back to carving. It is not a lost art. Denied, maybe- but not lost.

In 2003, an excellent article was written by Thulani Davis, titled "Can the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial Campaign Be Saved?" and published in the Village Voice. Posted on line (search the title) it will prove valuable reading to serious parties.

In June 2005, the MLK Foundation received $10 Million Federal to fund the MLK Memorial. In May 2006, they visited Barre, meeting with one sculptor for 15 minutes and one manufacturer for 10 minutes. Both assured the MLK Memorial Foundation they could handle the project. Neither was ever allowed to bid or even see project specifications. Foundation members even refused to tour the manufacturer's plant, where several of these Masters were and still are carving.

Elberton, GA's granite industry- in size, several times that of Barre- was never contacted at all, even though it is less than two hours from Dr. King's home in Atlanta and home office of primary supporter US Congressman John Lewis. Claims by the MLK Memorial Foundation to have been to "survey granite quarries" at Stone Mountain on Sunday July 22 2007 for project materials fail to expand that all quarrying operations in the Stone Mountain area ceased in the 1970's, reverting to Elberton by agreement. There are also no granite quarries in America that operate on Sundays.

In June 2006, the MLK Memorial Foundation spontaneously visited St. Paul, discovered Lei napping on the lawn after completing the only carving he admitted to had ever done completely "on my own." Lei didn't understand the scope of the project or of Dr. King until after returning to China, all per his interviews in the LA Times and stone industry publications. But he left St Paul with a check for over $130,000.00.

Due Diligence has not been served. Federal Monies mean an open bidding process. That NEVER Occurred. No US Entity, granite company, artist, artisan or other ever was allowed a viable chance to participate. Equality has been realized. We have all been denied. Color did not matter.

The design RFP was equally flawed, with the winners, ROMA Group, naming as consultant to their design concept Dr. Clayborne Carson. Carson served with the MLK Memorial Foundation to assist with origination of the RFP and also judged the entries. Hardly a blind competition. When ROMA and subsidary Devereaux & Purnell prepared to sue over nonpayment for services, they were contractually paid in full and expected to remain under gag about settlement. McKissack & McKissack were then awarded contract without competition.

As a result, Dr. King will be transfigured into stone, quarried and carved under near slave labor conditions, in a design that closely mimics a statue Lei produced of Mao Tse Dong. Reportedly, per edict of MLK Memorial Foundation Executive Architect Dr. Ed Jackson, all references to race- including the word "Negro"- are to be expunged from Dr. King's writings when inscribed on the Memorial. Future generations can then reflect upon contemporary but untrue claims of Dr. King's Communist Party activity, see images of very similar statues of King and Mao and read words inscribed in stone that vary from his published writings. That is a dangerous corruption of history.

Now joined by the US Granite Industry, King Is Ours is protesting a process and expressing a desire for African American Artistic leadership on the project, just as it seems appropriate to others to have such leadership in various aspects of the project.

I now have questions about my unbiased support of media sources I used to trust. Following the Nov 8 Barre Press Conference, we were accompanied for several hours by media representatives, including a VPR reporter who heard and recorded all of these industry-based concerns about lack of bid opportunity even though Federal money was involved. With us, he retraced the footsteps of the MLK Foundation visitors and spoke to the same industry experts. But many such facts were never mentioned in the resulting VPR/NPR segment.

Subsequent NPR coverage, as well as nearly all AP-produced stories, has also avoided inclusive and significant truth, focusing only on a racist spin prioritized by too many mainstream media outlets. While it appears that some donors to the King Memorial are also supporters of Public Broadcasting, I would hope that does not impact the integrity of reporting all of the facts. An omission isn't an untruth, but it can certainly skew audience perception and interpretation. The MLK Memorial Foundation leadership uses this tactic deftly to their advantage.

Personally, I was pursued, invited and then uninvited from a CNN broadcast panel discussion in Aug 07, being told verbatim, "This is an African American Issue. You will not be needed for tonight's show." Still, King Is Ours is painted as the biased party throughout the media and blog world.

In late October 2007, the CA NAACP passed a resolution demanding full repatriation of the MLK Memorial and investigation of responsible parties. This passed by unanimous vote at their annual state convention, thus represents another significant voice joining King Is Ours.

Just last Friday (Dec 14, 2007), it was publicized that now US Granite Companies will get to participate in the bidding process. Left out is the fact that there is still no intention to allow any US entity opportunity to produce the feature 28 foot tall central feature statue. That primary focal point of the memorial will still be 100% Made in China. We only get a chance to bid on the leftovers after the best was cherry picked away- even though that $10 Million Federal was in the MLK Memorial Foundation budget before outsourcing occurred. It is still an unfair and exclusionary process. The denied can still sit wherever we want, as long as it is in the back of the bus. Nothing has changed.

King Is Ours is fighting for all Americans, for the accurate interpretation and representation of our shared history. Whether it's a person of color who remembers the way it used to be or portfolio-proven American workers struggling to keep artisan crafts alive now, it's about the process of being American. There is nothing wrong with being Chinese. But Washington, DC is not yet in China.

Join us. See what so many other Americans have said when they signed the petition linked to King Is Ours website supporting repatriation. This protest is about the process. Help us tell the truth. That is all we are doing. That is why we are winning.

Jesus Christ has blessed me as a skilled artisan. I believe it is my obligation to not only to honor Him in all I do but also to uphold His gifts to me. By simply telling the truth, as we are instructed to do in His word, we are winning without passing undue judgment. Please do not succumb to simplistic bias. Instead, join us to help honorably commemorate a man who based much of his work specifically upon the teachings of Jesus Christ.

For reference to the process and specialties of sculpture mentioned previously, it is normal in our industry to have a model or design submitted to us by an artist specializing in another media- such as bronze, which is initially executed in clay- to be reproduced in granite. That is exactly why first Artist of Record Ed Dwight (produced the clay model of ROMA's concept) and Lei Yixin (expected to reproduce Dwight's model into granite) were originally included in the project. When Dwight criticized Lei's inaccurate interpretation (in clay) of Dwight's model for approval, Dwight was summarily dismissed and Lei promoted to Artist of Record. To do this project entirely in the USA is not difficult (much less impossible as represented by the MLK Memorial Foundation), using an African American Artist of Record with a team of domestic granite Master Sculptors and Artisans- who will be mostly non-black, simply because of current demographics. We all get to participate in harmony, not just one group.

This is not a simple matter and, with notable spin, the complication is being exploited by the MLK Memorial Foundation. If the egos of the leadership corrupting this project truly led by showing humility, listening to the concerns of Dr. King's supporters and repatriating the entire project to the USA- not just token portions- we will have the most significant memorial to Dr. King that can be produced. Otherwise, it will be forever tainted and marginalized.

He is not just theirs. King Is Ours. Join us.

Thank you for posting these comments.

Respectfully,

Clint Button, King Is Ours- US Granite Industry Liaison

Posted by: Clint Button | December 17, 2007 11:41 AM

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