The Journal Gazette
Tuesday, January 18, 2022 1:00 am

MLK words to adorn memorial

Residents to vote on quotes from city talk


Fort Wayne officials chose this year's Martin Luther King Jr. Day to highlight something planned to commemorate the civil rights leader next year.

They announced the next phase of a project to create an outdoor sculpture to honor the 60th anniversary of the civil rights leader's visit to the city in 1963.

The work will be completed by June 5, 2023, at the southeast corner of the University of Saint Francis Performing Arts Center parking lot at 420 W. Berry St. The site is across from the former Scottish Rite auditorium where King delivered his speech.

Artists Shane Albritton and Norman Lee of RE:Site Studio in Houston, Texas, are now asking residents to choose words from King's city address that they find meaningful. The words will be cut into the steel pillars that make up the design, city officials said Monday in a news release.

The two artists' monument will have six 15-foot pillars set in a circle around a stone or concrete plaza. Upward facing LED lights will be installed in each pillar for nighttime illumination.

The announcement was one of several events planned in memory of King. But inclement weather – freezing drizzle and sleet that coated roadways, sidewalks and other outdoor surfaces – affected some events scheduled Monday.

A gathering at the north end of Fort Wayne's Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Bridge on Clinton Street was postponed because of the weather. Most attendees participated virtually in a talk on local racial issues by City Councilwoman Michelle Chambers, D-at large, at the Fort Wayne Rotary Club's weekly lunch meeting at Parkview Field.

Organizers of the bridge event said it was to advocate for stalled federal voting rights legislation – the John Lewis Voting Rights Act. King's family have asked for the action nationwide, organizers said.

Part of President Joe Biden's agenda, the legislation has been held up by two Democrats, Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, who oppose it and have prevented a majority vote.

The bridge event was sponsored by the Poor People's Campaign with participation by Fort Wayne NAACP Branch 3049, the Fort Wayne Chapter of Links Incorporated, local churches and the local chapter of the League of Women Voters. Organizers asked that residents write to Indiana Republican Sens. Todd Young and Mike Braun or call 1-883-345-2551 to support the legislation.

Organizers also recommended residents go online to to register to vote, check and update their registration or help someone else do so.

At rotary, Chambers said a city police reform commission was productive. It was established after the demonstration in Fort Wayne protesting George Floyd's death by a police officer in Minneapolis.

Chambers said the commission recommended body cameras for police, who now can call in social workers in potentially volatile situations. Police also are being “much more intentional” in recruiting people of diverse backgrounds, she said. The commission has been disbanded, but about 90% of 40 recommended actions are being accomplished, Chambers said.

“What gives me hope is ... when we are inclusive we can grow economically and we can grow socially,” she said. “We are just better together.”

The Fort Wayne artwork, “Pillars of Hope and Justice,” was selected by city's Public Art Commission in October after a request for qualifications in February 2021.

The work is intended to emerge from the ground and arc over the heads of visitors to evoke King's words, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

Residents can contribute by ranking selected statements in King's Fort Wayne speech through Feb. 28 at Results will be released this summer.

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