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MLK memorial brought about by fraternity

Dr. T. Marshal Jones, left, and Dr. William Berry III are members of the local chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha, the national African American fraternity which began the drive to create the Martin Luther King Memorial in Washington DC.

Dr. T. Marshal Jones, left, and Dr. William Berry III are members of the local chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha, the national African American fraternity which began the drive to create the Martin Luther King Memorial in Washington DC.

ALBANY, Ga.

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Dr. T. Marshal Jones, left, and Dr. William Berry III are members of the local chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha, the national African American fraternity which began the drive to create the Martin Luther King Memorial in Washington DC.

— Dr. William Berry III, an Albany dentist, viewed the Martin Luther King Jr., monument in Washington for the first time last week. He was struck with awe and the satisfaction of a good thing having come at last.

“It was a moving experience,” Berry said. “I felt grateful for all the things he’d done for African-Americans and for people everywhere. It (the monument) is on a tidal basin, and Dr. King is looking out over that basin. The monument is placed between the Lincoln and Jefferson memorials. It was a little bigger than I had expected.”

According to T. Marshal Jones, an educator and musician, the MLK monument began as an idea within Alpha Phi Alpha, the first national fraternity of black men. Jones is the immediate past president of Gamma Omicron Lambda, the local “graduate chapter” of APA.

The idea gained momentum when Martin Luther King Jr. Day was declared a national holiday in 1983.

The following year, an APA fraternity member, George Sealey, proposed to the organization’s board of directors that a national memorial to King be built.

In 1996, President Clinton signed into law Congressional legislation proposing the establishment of a memorial in the District of Columbia to honor King.In 1998, congress allowed the establishment of the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation in order to manage fundraising and select a design for the monument.

“There was a timeline,” Jones said. “Alpha Phi Alpha had until 2003 to raise $100 million and to break ground.”

According to Dr. Berry, inflation and other factors have caused the total cost of the monument to be higher than expected.

“We actually thought we’d spend about $80 million,” Berry said. “It (the monument) ended up costing about $120 million.”

The groundbreaking ceremony for the project took place on Nov., 13, 2006.

Jones said that from the point the monument foundation was established, donations were solicited from “all practical sources,” including corporations, fraternities and sororities, civic organizations and individuals.

“Every fraternity, every chapter has made contributions to this effort,” Jones said. “And here we are ready to celebrate.”

Even though the official dedication of the MLK memorial was postponed because of weather, Dr. Berry’s trip to Washington was filled by events associated with the monument.

Also a past president of his local chapter of Gamma Omicron Lambda, Berry attended a private showing and dedication of the memorial. In attendance at the special event and the foundation banquet were Harry Johnson, CEO of the MLK Foundation and past president of Alpha Phi Alpha, Bernice King, the Rev. Al Sharpton and a number of other dignitaries.

“The monument itself is made from granite,” Berry said. “The body sort of projects out from a large stone behind him — the stone of hope, it’s called — and it (the stone) is symbolic of his life and the nonviolent message he used to improve the civil rights of all people.”

Berry was disappointed that inclement weather caused the postponement of the official ceremonies, including a speech by President Obama, but he said he intends to return to Washington when a new date is set.In 1998, congress allowed the establishment of the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation in order to manage fundraising and select a design for the monument.

“There was a timeline,” Jones said. “Alpha Phi Alpha had until 2003 to raise $100 million and to break ground.”

According to Dr. Berry, inflation and other factors have caused the total cost of the monument to be higher than expected.

“We actually thought we’d spend about $80 million,” Berry said. “It (the monument) ended up costing about $120 million.”

The groundbreaking ceremony for the project took place on Nov., 13, 2006.

Jones said that from the point the monument foundation was established, donations were solicited from “all practical sources,” including corporations, fraternities and sororities, civic organizations and individuals.

“Every fraternity, every chapter has made contributions to this effort,” Jones said. “And here we are ready to celebrate.”

Even though the official dedication of the MLK memorial was postponed because of weather, Dr. Berry’s trip to Washington was filled by events associated with the monument.

Also a past president of his local chapter of Gamma Omicron Lambda, Berry attended a private showing and dedication of the memorial. In attendance at the special event and the foundation banquet were Harry Johnson, CEO of the MLK Foundation and past president of Alpha Phi Alpha, Bernice King, the Rev. Al Sharpton and a number of other dignitaries.

“The monument itself is made from granite,” Berry said. “The body sort of projects out from a large stone behind him — the stone of hope, it’s called — and it (the stone) is symbolic of his life and the nonviolent message he used to improve the civil rights of all people.”

Berry was disappointed that inclement weather caused the postponement of the official ceremonies, including a speech by President Obama, but he said he intends to return to Washington when a new date is set.