By Eva M. Doyle
The controversy surrounding the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. bust that is in the park that bears his name on Fillmore and Best Street continues to heat up. The question is: should it be replaced with a statue that actually looks like him?
I was one of the people present during the unveiling of the statue in 1983 I recall that when the bust was revealed, there was a "collective sigh of disappointment" among the crowd: The face did not resemble Dr. King. No one was prepared for this huge bust.
As a columnist, I wrote a major article expressing my own concerns. Now fast forward to 2018, and honestly I have mixed feelings about whether the bust should be replace. After all it has been 35 years since the unveiling.
The bust was designed by John Wilson, an award-winning African American sculptor who designed similar busts around the country. Those who defend the sculpture describe the bust of Dr. King as epitomizing the larger than life ideas and philosophy of a man of great vision and wisdom. They point to the bust as a reminder of the power of the struggle of blacks for civil rights. In my view, the bust also resembles the five-ton Olmec heads found in the 1400s in Mexico with great African features that were a reflection of power and influence.
The park was renamed the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Park in 1977, 41 years ago. My concern goes beyond the statue. The goal should be to have major annual projects and activities held in the park around the birthday of Dr. King on his life and accomplishments. There is a need to do more than erect a statue. There is also a need to educate everyone on the history of Dr. King. He was more than a "dreamer." Dr. King was a revolutionary thinker who spoke out strongly against the war in Vietnam. Dr. King was becoming a threat to the establishment because he was crossing the line and entering into issues of war and peace. People seldom hear about this part of his life.
Before his assassination, he was organizing a Poor People's Campaign along with other civil rights groups designed to help both blacks and whites seek economic justice. He played an important role in the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955. As a result, his house was firebombed and his life was threatened.
My view is that there needs to be more teaching about Dr. King and less worry about a statue. During his birthday celebration there should be a sign in the park with the words "Happy Birthday, Dr. King." There should be annual programs in the park around his birthday that point to his great ideas, not just protest meetings, but real education on a man who did so much to change America.
Eva M. Doyle is a columnist for the Criterion and author of the Eye On History column.