Tuesday, January 16, 2007
From The Chicago Sun-Times…
Your $5 can help preserve MLK’s legacy on capital’s mall
BY MARY MITCHELL, Sun-Times Columnist
If you’re one of those people who treated Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday just like any other Monday holiday, there’s still hope. With a little effort, you can do something truly special to preserve King's legacy long after people stop quoting his “I Have a Dream” speech.
For as little as $5, you can help build the $100 million National Memorial for King in Washington, D.C., on the National Mall. That’s less than it costs to go to a movie.
To date, nearly $70 million has been raised for the $100 million project. Most of the money has come from corporations. Indeed, after members of Alpha Phi Alpha kicked up a fuss about how black fraternities are depicted in “Stomp the Yard,” Sony Pictures popped for an undisclosed donation to the King memorial.
But as a matter of pride, every black person in America ought to be able to scrape up $5 for this effort.
Because it’s not like black people -- as a whole – can’t afford to give to this cause.
Many of us overburdened
Many of us tithe -- to our churches or to broke relatives. We help our mothers pay past-due utilities. We raise nieces, nephews and grandchildren, and don’t get a dime from the child welfare system. We are regularly called on to help support triflin’ siblings, and do so because we can’t bear to see them begging in the street.
So it’s not like black people are too cheap to give.
It’s more like many of us are so overburdened with our day-to-day responsibilities that we put off things like this.
Last summer, for instance, Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin had to hustle up the money from corporate and private donors to save King’s papers from being auctioned by New York-based Sotheby’s. Included were handwritten versions of his famous “I Have a Dream” speech, and his 1964 Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech.
Franklin cobbled together $32 million from more than 50 corporate and government and private donors to rescue King’s papers.
Yet small donations -- the kind of money raised at church dinners, bake sales and car washes, could have spared Franklin the indignity of having to pass the hat.
‘An appropriate tribute’
According to the latest U.S. Census, 36.4 million people, or 12.9 percent of the total U.S. population, reported as black or African American in 2000. Of the people who reported as black, 54 percent lived in the South, 19 percent lived in the Midwest, 18 percent lived in the Northeast and 10 percent lived in the West.
While New York City had the largest number of black people (2.3 million), Chicago came in second, with 1.1 million. Detroit, Philadelphia and Houston each had between 500,000 and 1 million African Americans.
Yet it is the African-American leaders in Denver who are urging residents to donate $2 each to fund the King memorial.
These leaders argue that “a fund-raiser that involves many people coming together to achieve a common goal is an appropriate tribute to King.”
We must do our part
Chicago can’t afford to get left behind.
After all, Chicago is the headquarters for two of the most prominent black organizations in the country: the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson’s Rainbow/PUSH Coalition and the Nation of Islam, headed by Minister Louis Farrakhan. All eyes are also on the Chicago Urban League, which recently installed Cheryle Jackson as its CEO -- the first woman to head up the 90-year-old civil rights organization.
In fact, Chicago is home to the most powerful and fascinating black people in the country, including Oprah; Linda Johnson Rice, CEO of Johnson Publishing; John Rogers, CEO of Ariel Capital Management, and Christopher Gardner, CEO of Gardner Rich & Co.
But it is the ordinary citizen who stands to lose by not chipping in.
Because if we don’t do our part to honor our own today, what will we tell our children tomorrow?
Please make your tax-deductible donation payable to Martin Luther King National Memorial Foundation, and mail to: Washington, D.C., Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation Inc., Department 211, Washington, DC 20055.