Posted by: morgan1965 | August 27, 2011

The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial and Stones of Hope

Depending on what your frame of reference is, the date August 28 might conjure up a variety of memories. The first memory for me is that it is my late mother’s birthday. For this reason, I have fond memories of August 28th when mom would bake a cake for her birthday.

This date has another reference for me, because it was on this date in 1955 that Emmett Till was murdered in Mississippi. His mutilated body was found in the Tallahatchie River. His murderers had weighted him down by tying a cotton gin to his neck with barbed wire. The fourteen year old boy was accused of “flirting” with a white woman. I still remember the images of his deceased body published in “Jet Magazine.” I was twelve years old at the time.

Eight years later on August 28, 1963 more than 250, 000 people participated in the historic March on Washington which culminated at the Lincoln Memorial. The purpose of the march was to plea for civil rights and economic justice. It was on this day that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, the “moral leader” of the nation delivered the now famous “I Have a Dream Speech.” Dr. King outlined his vision for the nation, a God inspired dream.

America is now honoring Dr. King with a national memorial. The memorial will cause us to remember yesteryear, reflect on today, and hope for tomorrow. My mother was born in a racially segregated America where she lived to see some significant gains in the arena of civil rights and economic justice. Emmett till, however, was a victim of racial injustice, bigotry and racism. Martin Luther King was the drum major for justice who articulated a yet unfulfilled dream. He too became a victim of America’s racial intolerance and bigotry, but his dream still lives.

The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial in Washington DC depicts King emerging from a “Stone of Hope.” This concept is couched in King’s “I Have a Dream” speech where he visualized “the mountain of despair” transformed into a “stone of hope.” The mountain of despair at that time was a matter of racial injustices and economic disparities. America has made some gains, but the nation still is plagued by racism. Poverty is rampant, especially among children. Currently, millions of Americans are unemployed.

When we consider Dr. King’s mountain of despair, I am reminded of “Deuteronomy.” Hear these words: “The Lord our God spoke to us at Horeb, saying, ‘You have stayed long enough at this mountain. Resume your journey, and go into the hill country’…” [Deuteronomy 1:6-7a]In other words, you have stayed around this mountain long enough. In essence, that is what Dr. King was saying to America – you have wallowed in racial discrimination and economic injustice long enough.

Perhaps we have lost sight of the fact that at the time of Dr. King’s death on April 4, 1968 he was planning to launch the Poor People’s Campaign, because of his concern about the plight of the poor. The purpose of the campaign was to gain economic justice and housing for the poor. A month later, on May 12, 1968 the Poor People’s Campaign was launched. It was a two week project that included a shantytown in Washington DC which became known as Resurrection City. Ironically, the desired economic bill of rights was never passed by Congress.

Where are the stones of hope today? Stones of hope such as stable living-wage jobs, affordable quality healthcare, affordable housing, and quality public education seem to be elusive in America today.

Let us not find ways to establish and cultivate stones of hope as we celebrate the dedication of the new Martin Luther King Memorial.


  1. You mention August 18 at the beginning of the blog, but I think you actually mean August 28, correct?

  2. Dear Bishop Lyght,

    Thank you for your reflections about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his dream for America. As I stood in the crowd at the Lincoln Monement in Washington, DC on August 28, 1963, my life was significantly altered. Today, as you observe, stones of hope seem elusive in America today The anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s historic speech, your post, and the forthcoming decidation of the Memorial later this fall are all reminders that call to ministr, wherever one is located, is a call to be such a stone of hope. Thank you for your message.

    Peace, grace and hope, Chaplain Morgan Peterson

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