MLK Rededication Ceremony Launches Full Court Press to Preserve Monument

“The Making of a Monument”  Permanent Exhibit Launched. Plans for Continuing Use of MLK Park Outlined

Pictured left: (left to right) Brother Bell, James Pappas, Reverend Blue , Dr. Norman Lewin, Congressmen Higgins and Alfred Price. Brother . PHOTOS  GREGORY D. BARBER 

January 18 marked the rededication  of the  Dr. Martin Luther King monument was, in Clifford  Bell’s own words  “awesome.”

Indeed. It was a full court press by a committee   led by the 90-year-old civic powerhouse to put an end, once and for all,   to  the controversy surrounding the monument in MLK Park and  efforts to destroy the art and replace it  with a more realistic likeness of Dr. King . 

The truth,  Bell  and other supporters have said repeatedly, is that the  8 foot bust,  created by the eminent Boston  sculptor John Wilson, never intended  to look exactly like the great civil rights leader;  rather it is a symbolic work of art that would capture “the inner spirit and energy of the man.”  

Wilson’s forceful presentation before the  9-member  selection committee over three decades ago , Mr. Bell   told the Challenger, “is what made it a go.”

 The Buffalo African American Museum Committee, which Bell currently chairs,  created the community coalition to re-dedicate the monument and promote the artistic value of the tribute to Dr. King.

The  event, which took place inside Calvary Baptist Church on Genesee

Local Support for the recent Rededication of Buffalo’s MLK Park Monument /Photo Gregory D. Barber

Street,  and then afterwards briefly at the monument site a short distance away in the park, was complete with historic  video of the monument’s  dedication in  1983 as well as  interviews with  original committee members and the artist himself.

“Everybody that had a direct involvement in it in 1983  including John Wilson was featured,” Bell   told The Challenger.

In addition to the  program at the church and the rededication of the monument, the   grand opening   of a permanent “Making of a Monument” exhibit inside the shelter house  near the King memorial was also unveiled. 

Bell said the goal of the   event “is to bring people’s attention to the real meaning of this statue and make people  feel a degree of comfort when they come into this atmosphere…this is a Frederick Law Olmstead park…all of his environmental  things speak of peace and quiet and beauty…it fits right into  this perfectly  because its (the monument) enormously impressive.” 

 He continued:  “This (the display)  tells the story to the word, from the beginning.”

 The rededication   and launching of the exhibit   he added,  is significant.

“It’s important because I understand what it took to get here, and because Dr. King made the ultimate sacrifice.”

 People can now come and see the tribute to Dr. King. Then they can come to the park shelter house located right behind it to see the complete history of the making of the monument and its significance.

 In addition, a self-guided mobile audio tour  makes it possible to simply use our phones to  hear informational audio scripts   narrated by Mr. Bell himself.

 There is also a  ‘Making of a Monument’ exhibit at the Merriweather Library which will be displayed the entire month of February, Black History Month. A portable  exhibit is available to take to schools and other organizations year round.

-Future Programming-

“Plans are  underway to have on-going use of the park for programming around Dr, King,,” noted Bell.

For  example, he said  a  committee is being formed to schedule a celebration  to    take place in the park on the day of Dr. King’s  assassination  on  April  4.  Also, local festival organizers (i.e. Juneteenth, Pine Grill Jazz Reunion  etc.) will be encouraged to include the monument and exhibit in  their festivities. Efforts to become a part of the Michigan Street

African American Heritage Corridor tour will also be sought.

Meanwhile, the Buffalo Olmstead Parks Conservancy    is   planning improvements to the area surrounding the monument including new lighting and new landscape. Input from the community is welcome.

“We want this (monument and park) to be continually recognized for its value,” noted   Bell. …

 After 36 years of existence,  he  find sit hard to believe that anyone  would want to destroy the memorial.

“What are we afraid of?” he said in reference to the colossal image. “King said it (in the video today), ‘Be Black. Be proud!’ “

“I was fortunate enough to be the chairman  of the committee that started it,” concluded Brother Bell. “Now I’m  chairman of the committee that did this(rededication)…to kind of finish it.”