Published On: Thu, Apr 12th, 2018

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Voice Carried Clearly Through Washington Square Park and Beyond

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NEW YORK, H. Nazan Işık – 3 April is the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech.

I heard that on 3 April at 7:30 PM, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and First Lady McCray were going to light the arch in Washington Square Park and play the full recording of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech, which was delivered the night before he was killed, in honor of the 50th anniversary of its delivery.

I knew I missed the Mayor’s remarks; it was already 8:00 PM. I was two blocks away from Washington Square Park. I heard a deep voice coming from the park.

When I arrived at the park, saw people looking at a triangle light created by a spotlight, and listening to the voice.

People  gathered in Washington Square Park to honor Martin Luther King Jr.

“Something is happening in our world. The masses of people are rising up. And wherever they are assembled today, whether they are in Johannesburg, South Africa; Nairobi, Kenya; Accra, Ghana; New York City; Atlanta, Georgia; Jackson, Mississippi; or Memphis, Tennessee — the cry is always the same: “We want to be free.””

I came closer, and there it was, a lectern without anyone but microphones placed on top.

© h. nazan ışık

I am sure the lectern was there for Mayor de Blasio and First Lady to open the night’s event, to light the arch.  But just seeing the spotlight on an empty podium in a rainy evening, hearing Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech was eerie enough to give one goosebumbs.

”Let us rise up tonight with a greater readiness. Let us stand with a greater determination. And let us move on in these powerful days, these days of challenge to make America what it ought to be. We have an opportunity to make America a better nation. And I want to thank God, once more, for allowing me to be here with you.”

© h. nazan ışık

I walked around.  The arch‘s columns were decorated by Martin Luther King Jr.’s projected images.  Empty podium was standing right there, and the city’s lights were in the background. 

The sound of his voice filled the air.

“Now, let me say as I move to my conclusion that we’ve got to give ourselves to this struggle until the end. Nothing would be more tragic than to stop at this point in Memphis. We’ve got to see it through. And when we have our march, you need to be there. If it means leaving work, if it means leaving school — be there. Be concerned about your brother. You may not be on strike. But either we go up together, or we go down together

© h. nazan ışık

Mayor de Blasio and First Lady McCray were listening to the Martin Luther Jr’s last speech, above,  “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” that he gave night before he died in Memphis.

Martin Luther King had traveled to Memphis to support African-American sanitation workers in their fight for higher wages. And Mayor de Blasio was wearing a green New York City Department of Sanitation jacket.

“Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn’t matter with me now. Because I’ve been to the mountaintop.

And I don’t mind.

Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people will get to the promised land. And I’m happy tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.”

That was the end of the speech.

Rev. Al Sharpton came to the podium to close the event. And everyone quietly left Washington Square Park.

Note: Excerpts from the full speech.

Photos © h. nazan ışık / NKENdiKEN /All Rights Reserved

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