By Kathleen Wells
Money in the Black community leaves immediately, as opposed to other communities, where money circulates within the community several times over. In fact, many say, we Blacks dont have communities, just neighborhoods since a community infers ownership.
So, when an opportunity presents itself for money to circulate within our community, or rather neighborhood, what happens? The Black elites, for lack of a better term, decide to outsource the work, hiring the Chinese to do it.
These kinds of decisions, by the Black elite, is the reason why, amongst other things, the War on Drugs has quintupled our prison population and has been committed, almost exclusively in Black communities, despite the fact that they use drugs no more than Whites.
This elite class of Black folks pulling down $200K or more annually really dont care about the masses of Black folks those on the lower rungs. Their attitude is one of disdain and ridicule. They are selfish and phony they feel, they have theirs, why should they be concerned with others. Yet, they feign concern.
We Black folks, as a group/community, will never get anywhere, without collective action/effort. These so called Black elites have been merely motivated by the bottom line of: Whats in it for me? as opposed to, Whats best for us, Black folks? Or, What is the best way to pay homage to Dr. Kings memory? Theyve prostituted themselves for the almighty dollar selling their heritage and their parents sacrifice its shameful and pathetic.
And how will the children of Black elites turn out? Black folks werent raised this way, aside from the fact that individual success is a lonely and thankless journey.
The Martin Luther King Memorial was designed by a Chinese artist, although sculptor Ed Dwight, an African-American, was initially approached to do the task.
The Black fraternity, Alpha Phi Alpha, thought it would be best to commission the work to a Chinese sculptor and use Chinese labor. And, thats why the memorial of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., looks like Chairman Mao. I contacted Harry E. Johnson Sr., the man entrusted with the responsibility to decide who would sculpt the memorial and he referred me to former Congressman William H. Gray.
Gray said that there was a competition between artists to sculpt the memorial and Ed Dwight simply lost. So, I went to internationally-acclaimed sculptor Ed Dwight, to ask him some questions, and here is what he had to say:
Kathleen Wells: Mr. Ed Dwights first artistic endeavor began with a commission to create a sculpture of Colorado's first Black Lieutenant Governor, George Brown, in 1974. And from this first endeavor, he was commissioned by the Colorado Sentinel Commission to create a series of bronzes entitled "Black Frontier in the American West." This series depicted the contribution of African-Americans opening of the West. After the success of his "Black Frontier Spirit" series exhibit, Ed began to explore the most significant Black contribution to the culture of America, the history of jazz, which exhibited in his "Jazz" series, "An American Art Form."
This series depicts the evolution of jazz music from its roots in Africa to the contemporary superstars of the jazz era. To date, Ed Dwight has created over 120 memorials, monuments and public art installation, as well as some 18,000, gallery-level sculptures.
Included is the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial installed in Denver, Colorado, the monument to Cotton Picking and Sharecropping (this historical monument will include a museum and research center and be installed in the historic town of Mound Bayou, Mississippi, on the Mississippi Delta), the John Hope Franklin Memorial in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and a tribute to the destruction of the Black town of Greenwood, Oklahoma in the 1921 Tulsa Race Riot where hundreds of Blacks were killed and the entire town burned to the ground.
Other installments are a memorial to Rosa Parks for the City of Grand Rapids, Michigan; the first sculpture of both Dr. Martin Luther King and Coretta Scott King for Allentown, Pennsylvania; a second memorial to Dr. Benjamin Mays near the City of Charleston and a monument to the great activist Denmark Vesey for the City of Charleston, South Carolina.
Four major monuments include the first bi-national monument dedicated to the International Underground Railroad Movement in Detroit, Michigan and in Windsor, Canada; the African-American History Monument on the Capital Grounds in Columbia, South Carolina; and a memorial to George Washington Williams, the first Black legislator in the State of Ohio, installed in the State Capital in Columbus, Ohio.
So, the question is, "Who better to sculpt the memorial to Dr. Martin Luther King in Washington DC, than Ed Dwight?" That is my question.
... Let's see, the memorial for Martin Luther King was dedicated on October 16, 2011. You were initially approached to sculpt that memorial. What happened?
Ed Dwight: Well, you have to go back to the beginnings of it. I did submit a proposal for the original King and there were 900 sculptors and sculpture teams and architects from around the world that had sent proposals in and I was not selected in that group because they really, at the time, weren't really looking for a representational image of King they were looking for something a little bit more abstract.
And Roma Design Group out of San Francisco was selected and the original image of the memorial Dr. King's image was not included in it. It was just three mountains taken from a speech that he made: The stone of Hope would emerge from the mountain of Despair.
And so, what they had done, there were two huge mountains, then they had metaphorically cut the middle of the mountain of Despair out and slid it out away from the mountain of Despair and called that, "Stone of Hope," and that was the original design, period.
It wasn't until later that they decided to add an image of King as the thing kind of moved along, and we don't have enough time (now) to go through all the little details of how that happened. But as soon as that happened, they approached me; they came to Colorado and sat down with me and offered me the task of the sculpture of record for the memorial. Then I started working on it.
Kathleen Wells: And you created a model and that model was approved by the Fine Arts Commission which was overseeing the project. Is that correct?
Ed Dwight: That's correct. And so, the only thing, the only issue at hand, was that I don't carve stone. And we had a discussion about doing it in bronze, but that was immediately dismissed because they didn't want to mix materials. My idea was to do a bronze sculpture of him that would be embedded in the granite and that was an option. Then I could control that process because I have a large foundry and I could do that myself.
But they opted to go ahead and just carve the stone which is not a problem. And normally, what's done is that I would design it and we would go find somebody that carves stone to enlarge it for me. And so, that's how this thing was... That's how the Chinese sculptor came into play. We were out looking for somebody to carve the stone, to take my model and enlarge it.
Kathleen Wells: The issue is the matter of having someone carve the stone, of your image/model. Why are we even looking at an international sculptor when Martin Luther King is an American hero? Why are we going international?
Ed Dwight: Well, the net of the whole story was... And I don't want get to the end of the story before the end of the story, but the problem was
here's what you got to consider: You had a group of gentleman, and I have respect for all of these guys because they were prominent people in the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, however, not one of these guys had ever done this before.
Those guys, they were in well over their heads, so they kept going up there to Washington and leaving because they had no idea what the hell they were doing, but that didn't change much. But the original deal was, looking at it from the outside: you had to be an Alpha to be involved in this. And that's what they were trying to do, whether it was purposeful, but from the outside looking in, everybody in the inner group was an Alpha man, okay?
Kathleen Wells: Oh, so we're talking about the Black fraternity Alpha Phi Alpha. Is that correct?
Ed Dwight: Yeah, exactly, because they have the responsibility to put this project together and get it financed. And so, my fault in going into this thing was that I wasn't an Alpha. [laughter] A heck of a thing to say, but the issue is, these guys didn't have an idea about what they were doing. So, just to make a long story short, they had never done it before and they were learning as they were going along, and things got so complicated, and what I mean by "complicated," is, I gave them a path of how this is normally done in the country here and instead of going to find a sculptor to do this thing, there are people... Like there's a company in Philadelphia that has the ability to do this mechanically with the computer and you get it perfectly, exactly like you wanted it and it's right down the road. The whole thing would have been very simple. They wouldn't have had all these costs coming from chips and pieces of granite from China and all that kind of stuff to get over here, but they turned that down.
And as far as the granite itself was concerned, the State of Vermont had offered to give them the granite for free. All they wanted was the labor for the guys to carve this stuff and move the stuff to Washington they turned that down.
For the optics, the idea of using Georgia granite, was because Dr. King was from Georgia, and, well, how cool that would be, to use Georgia granite 'cause that's where Dr. King was born. But the optics were terrible in the whole deal. And so, they ended up choosing this Chinese guy. And much to my chagrin... I was involved in that, but much to my chagrin, they thought it appropriate and it seems like, from what I can gather, somebody told these guys that there was a possibility that if they chose this Chinese guy, that the Chinese government would give them some $25 million towards the project. And there were some other rumblings around about him being the greatest artist in China and having him work for a Black sculptor wasn't going to be well taken by the Chinese government.
So, there were all kinds of ramifications to this story, but they opted to use this Chinese guy. And the reason why they did this, the bottom line on this thing was that they needed somebody to just take over the project and relieve them of any responsibility. And so, the Chinese government ended up getting deeply involved in this thing. And so, now you got the Chinese artist, you got the Chinese government involved
for them, it was a turnkey deal. So, when you talk about the optics of having a Black sculptor or putting people to jobs, I mean, giving people work here in America or having it done in America, having it made in America, all that stuff fell on deaf ears.
Kathleen Wells: So the bottom line is that the statue of the memorial of one of America's greatest heroes, Martin Luther King the work to do that was outsourced to China. That's the bottom line.
Ed Dwight: That's basically the bottom line and the larger difficulty, because I was still involved, was that I was led to believe, for a time, that I was still the sculptor of record because I was going back and forth to Washington the Chinese sculptor ended up here in my studio.
We had to bond this stuff and he and I became quite close. I have all of his stuff and he's got all of my portfolios. I'm the one that gave him all of the images of Dr. King I gave him 100 images of Dr. King, three of my best books on King and two DVDs on King. So he could see King walk and make speeches and so he could learn his anatomy from that.
And I was supposed to be going over there and he was supposed to be working for me, and that's how the whole thing operated for quite some time. And months had gone, when I was going back and forth to Washington DC and these guys had not told me, that before the Chinese guy left the country, they had signed a contract and given the sculpture project to him they didn't bother to tell me that.
And so, I'm still operating as if I'm the sculptor of record. I was supposed to go to China with them on October 22nd, 2006. Two days before I was getting ready to leave for China, I got an email saying that, "Don't come this time because all we're going to do is pick granite, and we're not going to be doing anything else. We'll be going over there twice a month. As soon as they get back, yada, yada, yada... "
When they came back from China on that first trip, they came back here with an image of Dr. King made by this Chinese gentleman that looked like a gorilla. And so, at the end of a meeting, when in Washington, they pulled out the pictures to show, and that's when I learned that they have lied to me, that they have gone to China, they had hired the guy and they had four or five books of pictures of him. And then the end result was this hostile-looking, gorilla-looking man that was supposed to be Dr. King, with these deep-set eyes and the chin that stuck out like a gorilla.