Organizers behind the new King Memorial expressed disappointment that Sunday’s dedication on the National Mall has been postponed due to Hurricane Irene, but emphasized that the celebration will take place in the next 60 days or so.
Meanwhile, the Memorial is open to visitors through Saturday, weather permitting. And a limited number of dedication week events, including a national prayer service, are slated for today and tomorrow in Washington, D.C.
“In consultation with the National Park Service, the Mayor’s office and FEMA, it is with a heavy heart and enormous disappointment that we announce that, in the interest of public safety, we are forced to change our plans,” said Harry E. Johnson, Sr. president and CEO of the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation, Inc., which is headquartered in the nation’s capital.
There are still ways to honor King. Today’s dedication week schedule will take place as planned with an expo featuring vendors and information booths at the Washington Convention Center. An event billed as the “Women Who Dare To Dream Luncheon,” will also take place at that venue.
WATCH MSNBC COVERAGE OF MLK MEMORIAL POSTPONEMENT:
[MSNBCMSN video=”http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/32545640″ w=”592″ h=”346″ launch_id=”44284866^270^154890″ id=”msnbc2b8063″]
“I remained optimistic all day, but Mother Nature is Mother Nature,” Johnson said. “I’m very disappointed and hurt, really. We all are.”
On Saturday, organizers will hold a national prayer service at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in D.C. It will be the final official event of the dedication week.
Johnson said he and his team have worked with park service officials to ensure that the King Memorial will be open to the public through Saturday. The official Dedication ceremony will be moved to a date still to be determined sometime in late September or October, he said.
“So many worked tirelessly to dedicate the dream and make this Memorial a reality,” said Johnson. “In the words of Dr. King, “we must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.”
Located on the Tidal Basin, the King memorial is an engaging landscape complete with natural elements and water, meant to convey four themes that were fundamental to King’s legacy: democracy, justice, hope and love. The centerpiece — the “Stone of Hope” — features a 30-foot likeness of King. A 450-foot crescent-shaped granite wall is inscribed with King’s sermons and public remarks, though not the iconic “I Have a Dream,” speech.
Sunday’s event was expected to draw upwards of some 250,000 visitors from across the country and world. President Barack Obama was slated to give remarks, and such stars as Aretha Franklin, Jennifer Hudson and Stevie Wonder were to perform.
“The silver lining in the storm is that this memorial has a home here and will be a permanent place of reflection for visitors from around the world,” says Elliott Ferguson, President and CEO of Destination D.C., the city’s tourism arm.
“After this weekend’s storms pass, we hope that people from near and far will make their way to DC to experience this powerful memorial.”
In the meantime, King’s legacy was being celebrated elsewhere across the District.
Earlier this week, members of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.— which King pledged at Boston University — were on hand as its charitable foundation donated Apple iPads to two local D.C. schools for math and science use.
The new Alpha Phi Alpha Charitable Foundation Technology Grant Program will enable the schools to partner with Howard University, which will provide them with ongoing administrative and technical support. Additionally, the foundation is providing the schools with an e-curriculum specialist to help enhance the students’ learning experience using technology.
The investment was made possible thanks to a $100,000 donation back in 2008 from Edward Brooke, an Alpha brother and former U.S. Senator who broke color barriers.
“When we reflect on our mission to develop leaders, we have to start by investing in the children in our community. We have to ensure that they are receiving the best education through an innovative and supportive environment,” said Darryl R. Matthews, Sr., the foundation’s chairman and a past president of the fraternity, which was instrumental in building the King memorial.
“This new program is only the beginning of our commitment to improving the lives of students at urban schools by preparing them for academic achievement and lifetime success.”
Dedication Event Schedule:
Friday, August 26, 2011
Partners In the Dream (Exhibit Hall) MLK Store
Washington Convention Center
9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Women Who Dare To Dream Luncheon
Washington Convention Center
12:30 p.m. – 2:30 p.m.
Saturday, August 27, 2011
National Prayer Service
Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception
10:00 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.
The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial will be open to the public on the Friday, August 26 from noon until 10 p.m. and Saturday, August 27 from 8 a.m. to noon.
For more information about the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, please visit www.dedicatethedream.org..