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Atlantans Get Preview of King Memorial in D.C.

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By M. Alexis Scott, Special to the NNPA from the Atlanta Daily World –

WASHINGTON -- Visitors from Atlanta, including Martin Luther King III and his wife, Arndrea, recently joined Ambassador and Mrs. Andrew Young for a special private tour of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial.

Harry E. Johnson Sr., president and CEO of the King Memorial Project, led the tour through the memorial, which is still under construction.

Johnson said the memorial is scheduled to open to the public on Aug. 28, 2011.

"All of us here at the Foundation are working tirelessly to ensure this will be an event to remember," Johnson said. "Together, with President Obama as our keynote speaker, we will stand on the new Memorial's beautiful grounds on the National Mall, and we will celebrate this momentous achievement.

"It's taken many years for us to reach this point, and I can't tell you how exciting it is for us to be so close to completion." Johnson said. "Together, we've raised an incredible $112 million and we have just $9 million more to go to reach our final goal."

In addition to Johnson, Lisa Anders, senior program director of the memorial construction firm McKissack & McKissack, gave background on elements of the memorial. She has overall responsibility for the management of the construction, a singular distinction for an African-American woman. She said the memorial uses varied treatments and textures of water, stone and landscape to create an environment that is inviting and creates a sense of the diversity of the Civil Rights Movement.

Some 14 quotes from King will be used across a circular stone wall that surrounds the 30-foot statue of King that faces the Thomas Jefferson Memorial across the Tidal Basin. The composition of the memorial utilizes landscape elements to convey three fundamental and recurring themes of King's life: justice, democracy, and hope. The circular geometry of the memorial, juxtaposed within the triangular configuration of the site, engages the Tidal Basin and frames views to the water.

As the group toured the memorial, members took turns touching the quotes which are still to be etched onto the walls, and said "awesome" as they took in the 30-foot statue of King carved into the backside of the stone monument facing the Tidal Basin. Young gathered everyone at the base of the enormous King statue for a group prayer. The Rev. Whalem of Memphis, Tennessess, led the prayer of thanksgiving for the lives of the participants in the Civil Rights Movement, including Young and King.

During course of the tour, it was noted that the other memorials on the Mall are dedicated to U.S. presidents and wars in which Americans fought. The King Memorial is the only one dedicated to peace.

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