The memory of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his struggle for justice will be enshrined for Valley residents through a life-size bronze sculpture on Monday, Jan. 18, in the Peace Garden at California State University, Fresno.
Dr. King’s eldest daughter, Yolanda King, will be the keynote speaker at the observance marking the 70th birthday of the late civil rights leader and 1964 Nobel Peace Prize winner. California Lt. Gov. Cruz M. Bustamante of Fresno will deliver the welcome.
Following a program in the North Gym at 1 p.m., participants will proceed to the Peace Garden about 2 p.m. for a 15-minute ceremony to unveil and dedicate the King sculpture, which will be the garden’s third symbolic work of art joining a bust of Mahatma Gandhi and a sculpture of Cesar E. Chavez.
The event will incorporate the annual citywide observance normally held downtown by the city’s Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. Unity Committee, said Dr. Jerome Jackson, Fresno State criminology professor who is co-chair of the university’s King Monument Committee along with Dr. Robert Mikell, ethnic studies professor.
Created by nationally acclaimed artist Dr. Richard Blake of Pennsylvania and commissioned by the university, the six-foot tall sculpture of Dr. King portrays him in his ministerial robes holding a small child, which Blake said represents innocence and is symbolic of Dr. King’s concern with future generations.
Jackson said the 500-pound statue, which will stand on a 3-square-foot stone granite block engraved with a quote from Dr. King’s Nobel Prize acceptance speech delivered in Oslo, Norway in December, 1964, will present a message of peace, non-violence, inspiration, empowerment and strength for students and the community.
“This monument will be a historic, contemporary, and futuristic addition to a long-standing, yet dormant, tradition that enhances culture, peace, and harmony in the San Joaquin Valley,” Jackson said. “We are honored and proud not only to share this symbol of Dr. King and his life works with the community of Fresno, but more so that a member of his family will grace us by helping dedicate his statue.”
Yolanda King, 43, is an actress, producer and lecturer who speaks and performs nationally and internationally when she is not working on theater and film production projects from her Los Angeles home.
Born in Montgomery, Ala., two weeks before Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a bus there in 1955 – an action credited with triggering the movement that ultimately desegregated the South – Ms. King has been honored with numerous awards and citations for her lifelong efforts in the struggle for human rights.
She performs a one-woman theater production entitled “Achieving The Dream,” which presents the imagery and works of her father.
The artist for the $50,000 sculpture was selected by a review committee, headed by Dr. Luis Costa, dean of the School of Arts and Humanities, from a field of 24 artists across the nation who submitted entries.
Blake is a professor of art at West Chester University in Pennsylvania, where he teaches sculpture and three-dimensional design.
His sculptures have been featured in more than 40 international and national exhibitions. He has received numerous honors and awards from some of the most prestigious art institutions in the nation, including the National Sculpture Society and the National Academy of Design.
The bronze sculpture was made possible with gifts from the Fresno State Foundation, The Associated Students, Inc., and James and Coke Hallowell, as well as several other campus and community individuals. The donors’ names will be engraved on the granite base.
Mikell said more than 2,000 people are expected to fill the North Gym at 1 p.m. for the program.
Participating guests will include the O’Neill Sisters of Fresno, the Community Mass Choir, Rabbi Robert Seigel of Temple Beth Israel in Fresno and the Rev. Delman Howard, pastor of Carter AME Church in Fresno.
The Peace Garden, located in the tranquil, tree-lined lawn between the Henry Madden Library and the Psychology/Human Services Building, was established in 1990 with the installation of the Gandhi bust at the west end. The statue of Cesar E. Chavez, founder of the United Farm Workers Union, was dedicated in 1996 and stands at the east end. The sculpture of Dr. King, who was assassinated in
1968, will be unveiled at the north side, just a few yards west of Ghandi.
The idea for the Peace Garden came from Dr. Sudarshan Kapoor, professor of Social Work Education and coordinator of the Peace and Conflict Studies Program at the university.
“My dream was to have a garden where we have something symbolic of each ethnic and cultural group on campus,” Kapoor said. ”Each group would choose what they wanted to represent — an artifact, a tree, something to represent the diversity.”
For more information, call Dr. Jackson at (559) 278-2807 or Jo Ann Collins at 278-4680.
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