Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

An Inspiration in Bronze

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

An Inspiration in Bronze

Article excerpt

HACKENSACK -- Martin Luther King Jr., rendered in a heroic-sized bronze statue in a rough-textured finish, gazed resolutely from atop a black marble pedestal toward the northwest Sunday, the Hackensack River flowing behind him under a brilliant autumn sky.

Hundreds of people gathered at a brick-paved circular memorial site amid the spiced aroma of multi-hued chrysanthemums to witness the unveiling of a 7 1/2-foot figure of the civil rights leader, who was slain by an assassin in Memphis 46 years ago at the age of 39.

Sculptor Richard Blake said it took two years to create the larger-than-life likeness in his studio in Lancaster County, Pa., after his proposal was selected from among 14 submitted to the Bergen County Martin Luther King Jr. Monument Committee.

Blake said he had chosen to cast King in a classical posture, clad in an academic robe and holding a scrolled document in his right hand. "But there's a roughness around it, he said, referring to the textured finish of the metal, to capture the feeling of "the mountain" that King had referred to in the speech he made the night before he was slain.

In the speech, King foresaw his own death and said that although he "would like to live a long life," he was "not concerned about that now."

He added: "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!"

Working with a $250,000 budget for the project, the committee rounded up donations from upward of $25,000 down to just pennies -- literally pennies -- collected by schoolchildren in Teaneck.

Aaron Rodriguez, a student at Thomas Jefferson Middle School in Teaneck, joined the many local and county dignitaries, religious leaders and civil right activists who spoke about the deeper meaning of the monument as a memorial to past struggles and as an inspiration to stay focused on the continuing fight for liberty, justice and equality. …

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