The Martin Luther King Memorial Causes a Stir

Has there ever been or will there ever be a memorial that gets put up without controversy? That’s what we were asking ourselves when we read about the controversy surrounding the building of the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial in the National Mall in DC. Turns out, people aren’t too happy that the artist who received the commission is neither 1) black nor 2) American. Instead, it’s Chinese sculptor Lei Yixin. And despite his “working closely on the design with two black sculptors in the US” and “the over all project is being directed by a black-owned architecture firm,” there’s growing debate:

A Chinese sculptor has been chosen to carve a monument three storeys high on the National Mall in Washington, where it will be placed between the Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials. But a loose-knit and growing group of critics is demanding that a black sculptor, or at least an American, should have been chosen. The protesters have been joined by human rights advocates who say King would have abhorred the Chinese government’s record on religious and civil liberties.

Gilbert Young, a black painter from Atlanta who has launched a website and a petition to try to change the project, said: “I believe that black artists have the right to interpret ourselves first. If nobody steps up to the plate to do that, then certainly pass it along to someone else.”