Oct. 16, the rescheduled date of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. memorial dedication, is quickly approaching, but could that date cause more harm than good?
Before we look at anything negative related to not moving the date, let’s first look at the positive considerations.
After an historic build-up, the original dedication, scheduled on Aug. 28, had to be moved due to Hurricane Irene and the destruction threatened in her wake. Therefore, it’s a good thing that the dedication was rescheduled.
With the new date a little less than four weeks away, it’s also a good thing that, in mid-October, it won't be too cold outside, either. More than likely, people will still be willing to travel in the cool fall weather common to Washington D.C at this time of year. Also, Oct. 16 is closer to the original dedication date that marks the 48th anniversary of King’s “I Have a Dream Speech.” Thousands have already visited the memorial, but the new date is closer to any date that would be scheduled for a later time.
Lastly, it’s a good thing that President Obama is speaking at the dedication. Despite the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity previously hosting their events on Aug. 26, the original date, many potential visitors have since cancelled their plans after hearing that the “official” dedication events, which included President Obama’s involvement, would be canceled. Holding the ceremony on Oct. 16 with the president’s involvement could positively influence the travel plans of the 50,000 people expected to now attend, down from the 250,000 attendees originally expected.
On the contrary, however, the president’s involvement could also be controversial. It may mark the middle of the fall season, but Oct. 16 also marks the 16th anniversary of the Million Man March in Washington D.C. With an upcoming election approaching, the president honoring Dr. King on the anniversary of the Million Man March, the historic brainchild of Minister Louis Farrakhan, leader of the famous African-American religious organization, the Nation of Islam, could stir controversy with the Nation's organizers and bring more attention to Farrakhan than to King.
When seeking the democratic nomination for president in 2008, President Obama was forced to denounce Farrakhan because he was considered, by some, to be "anti-Semitic." Moreover, just last March Farrakhan cautioned Obama that he was being used by whites to oppress his own people in Africa, and denounced his decision to oust Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi from power. With an upcoming election approaching, the mere mention of Farrakhan by President Obama could be used against him by his political opponents. However, Obama's refusal to mention Farrakhan’s event, which brought more Black people to the National Mall for the Million Man March than those who attended the civil rights march in 1963, could also upset many African-Americans.
Additionally, not moving the date could take away from the significance of both historic events. King may not get the recognition he deserves and the Million Man March may not get solely recognized, either.
The Washington D.C. Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial organization has not yet responded to BET.com’s request to discuss the conflicting dates, but let’s hope that if the date is not changed, the highlights of the weekend will focus on King’s achievements and not political controversy.
To contact or share story ideas with Danielle Wright, follow and tweet her at @DaniWrightTV.
(Photo: AP Photo/Cliff Owen)