Quick Take: Dr. Martin Luther King Memorial Made in China?

Will the centerpiece statue for the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial on the Mall in Washington DC be marked “Made in China?”

Well, not exactly.  According to published reports, unable to find a suitable black American, the Martin Luther King, Jr.  Memorial Project Foundation commissioned the services of Lei Yixin,  one of China’s “master” sculptors who was said to be selected based solely “on his artistic ability and experience carving large-scale granite projects…”

As one might imagine,  some people weren’t too happy with the choice.  And hence, the website, www.kingisours.com was created, spearheaded by Atlanta, Georgia artist Gilbert Young, who has said, “We’ve been sold out; our culture has been sold out.”

This current controversy is somewhat similar to the one surrounding Maya Lin, an Asian-American architecture student who was selected to create the Vietnam War Memorial.   Her challenges were chronicled in the documentary,  Maya Lin:  A Strong Clear Vision  The end result was a powerful and moving memorial befitting of the soldiers’ sacrifice.   

That controversy is like a walk in the park compared to this one.  

Yixin replaced Ed Dwight, a black sculptor, “who has designed about 90 memorials, a number of them in honor of King…But Dwight acknowledged from the outset that he couldn’t sculpt large pieces of granite and suggested the design committee find someone to work under him who could.”  (Excuse me Mr. Dwight, shouldn’t you be the one working under him/her since you don’t know how to carve largee pieces of granite

Harry Johnson, president of the Foundation, said,  “Lei was chosen…because he can carve stone that’s 30 feet high.”

And there is the question of the rumored $25 million donation from Chinese government which some believe helped influence the selection.   The budget for the memorial is $100 million.

A spokesperson from the Foundation the denied this stating, “We have had no discussions with the Chinese government prior to or post the sculptor selections.  We have had to no internal discussions with about contribution from the Chinese government.”

So what should we take away from this?

1.  Support Black Artists –  If you want to protest, protest the decimation of arts programs in America’s public schools.  It is in those halls and classrooms where artists are created and nurtured. 

2.   Show You Care and Write a Check –  It’s too sad that the Foundation has had such a difficult time raising money for this project.  The shortage of funding truly shows how much we care about King and the sacrifices he made for our advancement.   Unfortunately, this controversy may serve to discourage much needed donations. 

One thought on “Quick Take: Dr. Martin Luther King Memorial Made in China?

  1. We want to thank everyone for the hundreds of emails supporting our protest. We are tryihg to answer them all.

    It is very, very important that people understand that this protest is not about race. It’s about right. I spoke to a reporter from the Washington Post a few days ago. She is based in China and writing a story about the protest. Her first question was “Isn’t it true that Dr. King is a universal figure and belongs to everyone?” I told her if that was true, if everyone embraced what Dr. King was saying, he’d be sitting in the den of his home right now with a cup of tea!

    It seems that everyone has forgotten what was going on in this country in the 50’s and 60’s that made King join the long line of activists who stepped up to the plate to try to change the atmosphere that descendants of slaves were living under. I told the reporter that we, as African Americans, don’t have ONE place we can point to in this world that inherently belongs to us as a people, and yet through some miracle four acres of land has been set aside in the heart of D.C. for one of us. The plan is for that four acres of land to be developed and designed by a white architect firm, and for the centerpiece of the monument to be sculpted by an artist from China. Not only that, the centerpiece will be carved from Chinese granite and shipped here in crates marked “Made in China.”

    There is not ONE monument to a leader or historic figure in ANY country on this planet that has the name of an African American artist at its base. Here is our first (and last?) opportunity to show the world our culture, our artistry, our heritage, and our love for this man who gave his life for our people–and that chance has been snatched away–by the oldest black fraternity in this country–and given to an artist who is supported financially by a government that would not allow Dr. King to walk down the street let alone give a speech. Talk abut black on black crime!

    The Chinese artist, Lei Yixin is a government sponsored and supported employee who receives a paycheck from the Peoples Republic of China to create artwork. His claim to fame are the many sculpture’s he’s done of the murderer Mao Se Dung. The Los Angeles Times reported that Yixin said the King Foundation members found him sleeping on the grass and asked him to take on this important commission. Yixin said he was not aware of how big and important the job was until he saw the architects plans! He claimed to have heard about King as a student in school, yet a Chinese American King Is Ours supporter has written us to say that any teacher caught even mentioning Dr. King in the 60’s would have been imprisoned. Mentioning his name in the People’s Republic of China today, according to a Chinese professor, is “discouraged by the government” as reported in the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

    I am 66 years old. I was there in the 60’s. I did not march with Dr. King, but I damn sure intend to march for him.

    I thank you for your support. Please visit our site, http://www.kingisours.com in coming weeks. We will have products to help support the protest. Donations will allow us to buy a full-page ad in USA today to run the commentary you see on the site. Spread the word. Not many people are aware that these decisions have been made by the King Foundation.

    Gilbert Young

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