By Imani Wj Wright
Special to the AFRO

This year, in observance of the Civil Rights icon’s 91st Birthday, The National Memorial Foundation hosted the “9th Annual Wreath Laying, Day of Reflection, Reconciliation” at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Washington, D.C.  The Memorial Foundation is also the organization responsible for building the Martin Luther King Jr. (MLK) Memorial on the National Mall.

Martin Luther King III and family stand in front of the Martin Luther King Jr., Memorial on the National Mall. (Photo by Lucas Ballard)

“This event has become an annual national tradition, reminding us that the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial is a permanent beacon reminding us of the principles of democracy, justice, hope and love,” said  Harry E. Johnson, Sr., President and CEO of The Memorial Foundation.

During the first half of the commemoration, many families visiting the 30-foot Memorial, built of shrimp pink granite and 159 granite blocks, were taking photos and paying their respects to Dr .King. At the front of the Memorial laid a vibrant wreath with a variety of flowers. On the other side, there were speeches being held, along with music provided by Ebenezer A.M.E. Church Choir.  

Lt. Governor of Virginia Justin Fairfax, Secretary of Interior David Bernhardt, Pastor of Ebenezer A.M.E. Church  the Rev. Dr. Grainger Browning, Jr. and Martin Luther King III were the speakers in attendance.

Crowds gather for the “9th Annual Wreath Laying, Day of Reflection, Reconciliation” at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial on the National Mall. (Photo bY Lucas Ballard)

Once the speeches had come to a close, everyone made their way to the front of the Memorial to raise two wreaths, the original vibrant wreath, along with an all white wreath that was brought from the other side. Before raising the wreaths, Rev. Grainger Browning conducted a moment of silence along with a prayer. Following the prayer, Ebenezer A. M.E. Church Choir lead attendees in singing “We Shall Overcome.”

Jonathan Willard, a senior at Howard University, and President of Alpha Phi AlphaBeta Chapter stated, “Today is a very important day, not just in our country, but in our fraternity. Dr.Martin Luther King was a brother of our fraternity.”

“He upheld every aspect of our fraternity in every possible positive way,” Willard added. “Dr.King was an example of what every good man should be.” Along with Willard, several Alphas from Howard were in attendance. 

After the event, Dr.King’s son, Martin Luther King III took some questions. 

King III told the AFRO about the wreath laying and the significance of his father’s legacy.    

“The importance of being here at the Memorial on the actual holiday is always significant because the goal is to encourage people to recommit to fulfilling the work that has not been done,” he said. “Freedom, justice and equality does not yet exist for all humankind.” 

“The Memorial represents the memory of the words my father articulated.  It represents hope and inspiration for people around this nation, and throughout the world. So on this day, especially, we stop and pause. We say thank you, but we also encourage people to get engaged.”