On the 54th Anniversary of his infamous “I Have A Dream” speech in Washington D.C., the State of Georgia recognized Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with the unveiling of his statue at the capitol.

Thousands gathered on the corner of Piedmont Ave and Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd to get the first glimpse at the eight-foot-tall bronze statue that symbolizes equality, justice and hope for Georgians and Americans nationwide.

(Credit: Courtesy of Sylvia McAfee)

During the grand ceremony, all the turmoil of the current racial climate in America appeared to be momentarily set aside as legislators from both sides of the aisle paid respect to Kings family and his long lived legacy.

However, the national debate surrounding confederate statues, racism and bigotry was the biggest elephant in the room for some.

“If they want this statue, they have to take {Eugene} Talmadge down, they got to take {Thomas E.} Watson down, they got to take all the others down because otherwise this is just a superficial honoring.” said Dianne Mathiowetz.

As a political activist, Mathiowetz credits MLK for igniting her passion for advocacy after he visited Cicero, Illinois when she was a college student. Everyday Mathiowetz, a white woman, fights to break down the hold white supremacy has in educational, criminal, and federal institutions in America.

She acknowledged that the struggle to eliminate racism is not a one time thing however she hopes, “the unveiling of this statue reignites a real passion in people to dedicate their energy, their creativity to the struggle for liberation.”

The real passion Mathiowetz was referring to emerged from the crowd of onlookers.

Credit: Maria Boynton/CBS Local

“What does a statue mean, when this man spoke out for the needy and the hungry? He {MLK} said, this government is the greatest prevail for violence against it’s own people, and it’s still going on today,” said an animated Jonetta Burnett.

Burnett was determined to speak with one of the many representatives and legislators in attendance about the closing of Peachtree and Pine homeless shelter later that evening proclaiming, “Since he {MLK} isn’t here, I’m here to say it in his spirit!”

The shelter has been servicing Atlanta’s homeless and hungry for over two decades however, on Monday after an undisclosed agreement, the ownership of the property was transferred to the non-profit Central Atlanta Progress. 

For years the city has been at odds about the 100,000-square-foot facility that houses up to 700 homeless men, women and children each night because it’s an eyesore to the surrounding developing area and reported tuberculosis outbreaks.

According to the Central Atlanta Progress, “the facility will continue to operate ahomeless shelter until all who currently stay there are provided with access to the resources and care they need.”

“We feel good that we have more than enough spaces to house individuals who want to be housed,” said Mayor Kasim Reed in June.

(Credit: Courtesy of Sylvia McAfee)

So far, no arrangement has been made for the displaced homeless individuals and families however, work is being done to find them housing before it gets cold.

Burnett said, “If they can get a statue up here, they can get an apartment complex where all these homeless and hungry people in Atlanta can go. There is no excuse!”

From a Birmingham jail, King wrote, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” On the day Georgia’s lawmakers gathered to honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. by unveiling his statue, many citizens still carry on his legacy by advocating for a better America.

  • Julien Virgin is a staff writer at CBS Radio Atlanta. 


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