Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Stone of hope, some despair

On a substantially more positive note, the new Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial will be dedicated Sunday in Washington, D.C., the 48th anniversary of the March on Washington and Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial.

Who could have known in 1984 --- when Alpha Phi Alpha, the black fraternity that led the drive that resulted in the memorial, began its work --- that the United States would have a black president, Barack Obama, during its year of dedication?

The centerpiece of the memorial is designed to express in stone a line from Dr. King’s Dream speech: “With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope.”

King’s image is carved onto the leading edge of a giant wedge of stone, the Stone of Hope, designed to appear as if it had been sliced from the middle of the Mountain of Despair and propelled forward into the freedom of an open plaza facing the Tidal Basin, leaving a gateway so that others might follow him through.

Reading last night, I was reminded again that it took World War II to end the outrageous and morally bankrupting institutionalized racism that had prevailed until then in the U.S. military and many more years to knock down other institutionalized barriers to black people.

Even though racism remains, I would guess, a daily factor in the lives of most black Americans, we’ve come a long way --- thanks in large part to Dr. King. Who better to be memorialized among our greatest presidents?


Back in Iowa, Waterloo police are investigating the possibility that hate based on sexual orientation rather than race was a factor in the death of a young black man, Marcellus Andrews, 19. Andrews died early Sunday after life support systems were removed at University Hospitals in Iowa City. He had been fatally injured during a fight in Waterloo early Friday.

Witnesses told the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier that some of those involved in the fight that killed Andrews had taunted him with anti-gay slurs.

Andrews, who planned to study interior design at Hawkeye Community College this fall, also was a leader of a drill team sponsored by his church, Union Missionary Baptist. He was visiting with two young women who were his friends when, they told the Courier, passengers in a truck that had pulled up in front of the house began taunting Andrews.

Waterloo police deny that anti-gay sentiments were involved and say no witnesses reported slurs to them. Anti-gay motivation would cause both Iowa and federal hate-crime statutes to become a factor in the case.

It’s a tragic situation, and perhaps a reminder that although we’ve come a long way, there’s a ways to go.


Remind me not to write positive things about Republican presidential candidates. John Huntsman now, apparently, wants Michele Bachmann’s vice-presidential nod. I’ll never question the insanity of a Republican again.

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