Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Opens

Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Opens

It was 1984 when members of Martin Luther King Jr’s fraternity, Alpha Phi Alpha, conceived the idea for a memorial to the iconic civil rights leader. Today, their dream became reality when the King memorial opened to the public on the National Mall in Washington D.C.

Let the Celebration Begin

Urban Faith will be there Sunday when the memorial is dedicated, but the five-day Week of Dedication begins Wednesday with a formal dinner, followed by a concert Thursday, a women’s luncheon Friday, a Kennedy Center celebration Friday night, and a youth event, a Dream Gala and a prayer service Saturday. Tickets to these events can be purchased on the memorial website.

Sunday’s dedication begins with a musical tribute at 8:30 a.m. The dedication ceremony is scheduled for 11:00 am, and a concert is slated for 2:00 p.m. Sunday’s events are free and open to the public.

Update: At 7:30 p.m. on August 25, the memorial foundation announced that the dedication ceremony will be postponed until a date in September or October due to severe weather concerns. Saturday’s 10:00 a.m. prayer service will be the final dedication event this week.

Verbal and Virtual Tours

In an extensive report about the memorial, The Root described it like this: “Bordering Washington, D.C.’s Tidal Basin between the Jefferson and Lincoln memorials, a 30-foot granite sculpture of the prominent civil rights activist looms. It’s flanked by a crescent-shaped wall inscribed with 14 excerpts from some of King’s most notable sermons and speeches. Further enhancing the site are 182 cherry blossom trees, which will reach full bloom each April, the month of King’s death. And the memorial’s street address, 1964 Independence Avenue, references the 1964 Voting Rights Act, a milestone of the civil rights movement.”

Diversity Debuts at the Mall

“This is going to be a first in two different ways — it’s the first memorial on the National Mall to honor a man of peace, and a man of color,” Harry Johnson Sr., president and CEO of the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation, told The Root. “Now the Mall as we know it, the great land on which we honor our heroes, will be diversified much like this country.”

Controversy Dismissed

But the monument has not been without controversy, The Huffington Post reported last month. Not only is it 11 feet taller than the Lincoln and Jefferson memorials, but members of the sculpting community have objected to the choice of Chinese sculptor Lei Yixin, who they say made King’s features appear too Asian. King’s son Martin Luther King III told USA Today, however, that the memorial is a better reflection of his father than most of the ones he’s seen.

Rep. John Lewis Reflects

NPR was there when when the scaffolding around the memorial came down and talked to Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), who spoke at the March on Washington in 1963. “I was moved to tears,” said Lewis.

The Anniversary of a Dream

Four hundred thousand people are expected to attend the dedication, according to The Huffington Post. It will be held on the 47th anniversary of King’s “I Have a Dream” speech.

What do you think of the King memorial and its significance? Will you attend the celebrations?

Church & State Fighting Obesity

Church & State Fighting Obesity

Do Churches Have a Role to Play in Fighting Obesity?

Long before First Lady Michelle Obama began advocating the Let’s Move anti-obesity campaign, Rev. Michael O. Minor, pastor of Oak Hill Baptist Church in the Mississippi Delta, was convincing his congregation and others in the seven million member National Baptist Convention that churches have a role to play in helping congregants develop healthful living habits. The convention aims to have a “health ambassador” in every one of its churches by September 2012, The New York Times reported yesterday.

Minor has been at this for about 11 years, and tells other pastors that “sick members can’t tithe.” At his church and others in the convention, fried foods are banned, greens are boiled with turkey necks instead of ham hocks, and bottled water has replaced sugary drinks, the article said. Oak Hill also organizing group walks on a track it built around the church.

Is Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move Campaign Appropriate or Insidious?

“Michelle Obama’s major initiative during her husband’s presidency has been the Let’s Move campaign, which aims to end childhood obesity within a generation by encouraging healthier eating and activity “during their earliest months and years. While well-intentioned to be sure, something about it strikes me as insidious,” wrote Caryn Rivadeneira earlier this month at Christianity Today’s Her.meneutics blog.

“Perhaps because even as Let’s Move seeks to ‘raise a generation of healthier kids,’ it’s a government program that targets kids: namely, fat ones. As the message of Let’s Move and other programs like it has trickled down through layers of government bureaucracy into U.S.schools and schoolyards, the dangerous sides of its do-gooder message seep into our homes. It creates problems where there were once none,” said Rivadeneira.

Unfair BackLash?

“Former First Ladies Barbara and Laura Bush worked to end illiteracy. Nancy Reagan famously took on teenage drug use. Lady Bird Johnson planted flowers. But none of them have been seared for something as seemingly benign as calling for kids to eat more vegetables, as Michelle Obama has,” the Los Angeles Times reported in February on the first anniversary of Let’s Move.

“Just about everyone will agree that the nation’s children are getting fatter and that obesity is a serious health problem. But the first lady’s push for healthier meals and more exercise … has provoked a backlash from the right, who complain that the only thing here that’s supersized is Big Brother,” the article said.

Persuasion, Not Legislation

“Mrs. Obama has no legislated power. She only has the power of leadership and persuasion. I’m glad she’s using it to promote action on childhood obesity, challenging as that is,” wrote Marion Nestle, professor of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health at New York University, at The Atlantic in February. Nestle said the initiative “had brought childhood obesity to public attention, as never before,” that “fixing school food and getting supermarkets into inner city food deserts makes excellent sense,” and “encouraging the makers of packaged foods to reduce salt and sugar and to stop blatant marketing to kids brings attention to their worst practices.”

Do Church and State Have a Role to Play?

What do you think? Do pastors and presidents’ wives have a role to play in persuading people to adopt healthier habits or are these leaders treading where only health professionals should go?