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(READ) A Monumental Tribute: MLK Jr. Immortalized in Bronze at Black Spectrum Theatre

Photo by KENTHEPHOTOGRAPHER

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In a moving tribute to one of history’s most influential civil rights leaders, the Black Spectrum Theatre in Jamaica, Queens, NY, has unveiled a stunning life-sized bronze sculpture of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The unveiling, which coincided with Dr. King’s birthday on January 15, 2024, was a momentous event attended by elected officials, theatre supporters, and members of the public.

Founder and CEO of Black Spectrum Theatre, Carl Clay, alongside NYC Council Speaker Adrienne E. Adams, U.S. Congressman Gregory Meeks, and New York City Majority Whip Selvena Brooks-Powers, were present to witness the emotional ceremony. The sculpture, crafted by the talented Stanley J. Watts, captures Dr. King in a powerful oratory stance, a fitting homage to his legacy of eloquence and activism.

Before the unveiling of Watts’ bronze sculpture, which depicts Dr. King in an oratory stance in front of a pulpit, Clay described his sentiments about Dr. King and why the slain civil rights leader should remain in the forefront of the public’s minds today.

“In 1973, I was in a rally in Tupelo, Mississippi, where Black folks were boycotting. The bus made a stop, and it was Klan country. We were wet behind the ears, not understanding the significance, and we were marching. They had sticks, bats, and rifles. I thought, ‘I didn’t sign up for this, and if I’m afraid of 3000 people, imagine what Martin Luther King thought in such a situation 20 years before.’ We shed a tear when he passed away. We are his descendants.”


(L-R) NYC Councilperson Selvena N. Brooks-Powers, Black Spectrum Theatre CEO/Founder Carl Clay, U.S. Congressman Gregory Meeks, and NYC Speaker Adrienne Adams surrounded by guests. Sculptor Stanley Watts (center back row). Photo credit: KENTHEPHOTOGRAPHER

Speaker Adams then vividly recalled iconic moments leading up to the insurmountable challenges of making Dr. King’s birthday a national holiday. She explained, “As a student, I remember marching to ensure that Martin Luther King’s birthday became a holiday, and I was blessed to be a part of it. Circa 1980, we were trying to get that holiday. As a student at Spelman College, we got on buses with students from other campuses and headed to Washington, D.C., went to Howard University, and marched through the streets to demand the holiday. When we got to Capitol, there was Brother Stevie Wonder in all his glory, along with a sea of students. He was singing ‘Happy Birthday,’ Carl Clay, thank you for making sure this happened. Martin Luther King is ours, and people need to know that we will continue to fight for his legacy.”

 

Congressman Gregory Meeks then commented, “Congressman John Conyers Jr. fought for this. He pushed for this, and President Ronald Reagan made it happen. But the holiday is not just a holiday to talk about Martin Luther King or to have a day off from work. It was a commitment to service…We still have a long way to go, but if we stand together, we will make sure his dream becomes reality. Let’s go to work.”

City Councilperson Selvena Brooks-Powers declared, “This beautiful statue is a testament to how far we have come. There are still barriers we have to overcome. What does that look like? It means standing up for elected leaders who are trying to get the job done. We have to stay vigilant. We have to lead with love.”

The event culminated with emotional words from Sculptor Stanley Watts. “I am humbled and grateful. I love everybody. I love you all. You are God’s people…all things are in your power.”

Watts, who has his own Foundry, also sculpted the famous 700-pound George Floyd statue and numerous other historical moments and movers and shakers, including the signers of the Declaration of Independence, President Abraham Lincoln, and Poet Maya Angelou. His current statue of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. will remain on display in the lobby of the Black Spectrum Theatre.

The statue, now gracing the lobby of the Black Spectrum Theatre, stands as a testament to the progress made and the journey still ahead in the fight for equality and justice.