Controversy Surrounds MLK Memorial

Wrong artist? Too Asian? Too confrontational looking? A couple of months before the dedication, the criticism keeps rolling in. 

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mlkmemorialstatue
Scultor Lei Yixin with a model of the memorial (blackartinamerica.com)

Less than two months before the Aug. 28 dedication in Washington, D.C., of a major memorial to Martin Luther King Jr., controversy is surrounding the sculpture. No, not from people who don't think the late civil rights icon deserves the honor. Rather, the criticism is coming from those who question the decision to use a Chinese sculptor, or think the 30-foot statue looks "too Asian" or "too confrontational," USA Today reports.  

The statue, located between the Jefferson and Lincoln memorials, and 11 feet taller than each of them, is the work of Chinese sculptor Lei Yixin. An artist familiar with the project told USA Today that King would be insulted to hear that someone from a communist country would be working on his likeness. "Dr. King would be turning over in his grave if he knew," he said. "He would rise up from his grave and walk into their offices and go, 'How dare you?' "

MLK's family, however, isn't predicting any rolling over in a grave about this or the additional criticism that the likeness looks too Asian or too angry. Martin Luther King III said he's seen "probably 50 sculptures of my dad, and [I] would say 47 of them are not good reflections" but that “this particular artist -- he's done a good job."

The Aug. 28 dedication is set to coincide with the anniversary of King's "I Have a Dream" speech. While it's unfortunate that it might be surrounded by controversy, the great concern with getting the memorial right shows more than anything how much people respect the late leader and want to be good stewards of his legacy. Details aside, that's something we can all agree on.

Read more at USA Today.

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