Latest Word is off to mark Martin Luther King Day, but will be back on duty early tomorrow morning. The Martin Luther King Marade (that's march/parade) gets under way this morning at 9 a.m. The Colorado Progressive Coalition will be holding its own rally before the marade, asking for police accountability. And in Washington, D.C., a Coloradan has waded into another MLK controversy -- over a quote on the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial.
On Friday, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar -- who left his seat as senator from Colorado to join the Barack Obama administration -- gave the National Park Service thirty days to correct a mangled quote that had been carved into the side of the MLK memorial -- a quote that, by omitting the word "if," gave a new meaning not just to King's original statement, but also the meaning of "chiselers."
As it was carved into the mammoth monument, the quote read, "I am a drum major for justice, peace and righteousness." The Washington Post's Rachel Manteuffel thought that didn't think that sounded like King, so she did some research, and found that this was how King really started that: "If you want to say I was a drum major, say I was..."
"To King," Manteuffel wrote in a Post piece Friday, "being a self-aggrandizing drum major was not a good thing; if you wanted to call him that, he said, at least say it was in the service of good causes."
Poet Maya Angelou thought the truncated quote made King seem like "an arrogant twit," Manteuffel reported. "And satirist Stephen Colbert noted that it was 'to the point. Not Dr. King's point, but still. Brevity is the soul of saving money on chiseling fees.'"
On Friday, Salazar told the Post that he'd given the NPS a deadline to fix the flub: "I do not think it's an accurate portrayal of what Dr. King was."
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Denver has had its own controversies over MLK sculptures. "King and Companion," a perfectly good -- if artistically vilified -- statue of MLK and Emmett Till stood in City Park for three decades. But ten years ago, sculptor Ed Dwight was given a million-dollar contract to create a sculpture of Martin Luther King Jr. that placed the civil rights leader on top of a three-layer pedestal bearing bronze representations of Frederick Douglass, Sojourner Truth, Mahatma Gandhi and Rosa Parks, which was unveiled in 2003 in City Park, where the marade marchers will gather this morning.
The City of Denver donated "King and Companion" to the Dr. Martin Luther King Holiday Commission and Cultural Center in Pueblo, where it was dedicated in 2002. Alex Landau, who was beaten by Denver cops three years ago after he was pulled over for allegedly making an illegal left turn, will be speaking at the Colorado Progressive Coalition rally this morning. The city wound up paying Laundau $795,000 in connection with the incident; read our original story here