From the Worldwide Faith News archives

United Methodist raises money for King memorial

From "NewsDesk" <NewsDesk@UMCOM.ORG>
Date Tue, 14 Jan 2003 14:44:14 -0600

Jan. 14, 2003  News media contact: Tim Tanton7(615)742-54707Nashville, Tenn. 

By Melissa Lauber*

WASHINGTON (UMNS) - Anita Wamble, of the Martin Luther King Jr. National
Memorial Project, has a dream.

Wamble, a member of Grace United Methodist Church in Fort Washington, Md.,
dreams of a time when her two children can visit a monument to the civil
rights leader on the National Mall in Washington. As the project's major gift
officer, she is working to make that $100 million dream a reality. This year
will be a pivotal time in her efforts. 

In 1988, Congress approved plans developed by the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity
for the monument, which will be situated on a four-acre site along the Tidal
Basin. The site is adjacent to the Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial and in a
direct line between the Lincoln and Jefferson memorials.

Wamble calls it a "visual line of leadership" that links the principles of
freedom from the founding fathers through the civil rights movement. The
monument would be the first on the National Mall honoring an individual other
than a president and the first to pay tribute to an African American, she

The design, created by the ROMA Design Group architectural firm of San
Francisco, was selected in 2000 in a bid that drew more than 900 submissions
from 52 countries. It is based on the themes of justice, democracy and hope
and will use water, stones and trees.

Hope is a theme that greatly appeals to Wamble, a certified lay speaker and
chairwoman of Christian education at Grace United Methodist Church. She
pointed out that the civil rights movement was born and nurtured in pulpits.

King often spoke of the "stone of hope" cast out of the "mountain of
despair," she said. Portions of King's sermons and speeches will be inscribed
in the glistening, smooth surfaces of a water wall. A carving of King will
appear as a part of the stone of hope. The carving will reveal King's shape
in a slow and artful way. 

King's image will be seen looking across the Tidal Basin, according to
materials on the project's Web site ( He will be
"pointing with a pencil back to his words in 'The Promissory Note' as if,
having just written these words, he is now standing vigil and awaiting the
delivery of the note."

King spoke these words in Washington in 1963: "When the architects of our
republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration
of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American
was to fall heir. This note was the promise that all men, yes, black men as
well as white men, would be guaranteed the 'unalienable rights' of 'life,
liberty and the pursuit of happiness."

In raising funds for the monument, Wamble feels that she is, in some small
way, helping to collect on this debt. She left her job at the American Red
Cross to raise funds, believing "there were ideals of freedom involved in
creating this touchstone of history." 

In today's economy, raising money for the project is not easy, she admitted.
To date, $25.4 million has been raised, and $50 million is needed before
ground is broken in November, Wamble said. By November 2006, all $100 million
must be secured. Her task is to identify and work with contributors who
pledge gifts of more than $100,000. 

"To raise $25 million by November, that's where my faith comes in," she said.
"Looking at the economics, one might say we can never do it. But we need to
look at it through eyes of faith. What man calls impossible, God calls

Raising the funds means contributing to King's legacy, helping keep alive the
message that all people are equal in God's sight, Wamble said. It's
especially important for her to share this message with her children, she

Recent local surveys indicate that 97 percent of children could identify
Martin Luther King Jr., Wamble said. However, 68 percent couldn't place him
in the 1960s, and one out of three couldn't identify him as a leader of the
civil rights movement.

On King's birthday, Wamble teaches the students at her children's school
about their history. It's important that they know the shoulders of those
they are standing on are wide, she said. 

Looking around the classroom, she noted white, black, Hispanic, Arab and
Asian children and those from other cultures learning together. That scene
would never have occurred in Wamble's childhood school in the 1970s. This is
part of King's dream coming true, and that dream needs a tangible monument,
according to Wamble. 

"As a nation we learn that without one another we wouldn't be able to get
through life."
# # #
*Lauber is associate editor of the UMConnection newspaper in the
Baltimore-Washington Conference.

United Methodist News Service
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