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July 31, 2014, 5:41 pm

City officials visit memorial, celebrate MLK

Various local city leaders will head to Washington, D.C. this weekend to mark a historical occasion.

The long-anticipated Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial dedication will be held Sunday in West Potomac Park in Washington, D.C.

The dedication program, emceed by PBS NewsHour’s Gwen Ifill, will begin at 9 a.m. and pay tribute to King with the words of noted speakers including civil rights leaders and King family members, as well as musicians and poets. President Barack Obama will deliver the dedication address.

“The memorial is certainly deserved,” said Mayor Michael Nutter, who will be heading down to D.C. to view the memorial with his family.

“I remember in the ’80s marching in Washington to have the Dr. King birthday declared a holiday and this is a continuation of a true tribute of a great American and the impact that Dr. Martin Luther King had on this country and the world.”

“Dr. King is certainly most deserving, and I am very proud as an African American that he will be getting this recognition. This is history.”

Councilman Curtis Jones referred to King as a game changer.

“Before him, our sights were set a lot lower — the bar was a lot lower than they are today,” said Jones, who is also attending the event.

When Martin Luther King came on the set, there were white detractors and Black detractors. There was a whole movement of people who felt that his way was not the right way — that the non-violent way was not quick enough and he was able to transcend some of those to issues to appeal to a wide audience of people.”

“He was the more acceptable negotiator for civil rights. With that in context, a lot of young people ask me, are we are better off today, than we were then. My answer is equivocally yes. You cannot minimize the fact than when he gave the speech ‘I Have a Dream’ how prophetic he was,” Jones said, noting that the country has an African-American president and a Black Republican presidential candidate.

“Have we gotten to the promised land yet? No. All you have to do is look at Occupy Wall Street or Occupy Philly or look at the poverty rate in Philadelphia, which is 27 percent or the murder rate in the African-American community. Martin Luther King would be marching, protesting and speaking out on those injustices.”

Jones gave his views on the symbolism of the King statue.

“The symbolism of the statue is that statue is like a beacon. We’re on the seas of injustice. We realize that when we see that beacon we have the hope of getting to shore, but the reality is we’re not there yet,” Jones added.

Bilal Qayyum, executive director of the Father’s Day Rally Committee, who is not attending the dedication, provided his perspective on the King memorial.

“Dr. King is an international hero. Dr. King was one of the greatest Americans. When people really think about it, we can take credit for the stuff he did for Black folks, but he actually helped transform the attitudes of Americans. For him to have a memorial is a great thing for Americans,” Qayyum said.

The West Potomac Park ceremony is free and open to the public. No tickets are required, and the public is encouraged to bring their own picnic blankets and chairs. Gates will open at 6 a.m. and the public may access West Potomac Park via four gates on Independence Avenue, SW.

The National Park Service officially welcomed the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial to America’s 395th national park on Aug. 28, 2011, the originally scheduled dedication date and the 48th anniversary of the March on Washington and King’s historic “I Have a Dream” speech.