Last weekend I participated in an incredible historical event, the kind I'm going to share with my grandchildren someday! I flew to Washington, D.C., to give a speech at the Dedication Celebration of the MLK Memorial, an amazing statue built on the National Mall honoring Dr. King. It is located in a line between the Jefferson and Lincoln memorials. ...
I was asked to take part because of my involvement with the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Foundation's campaign to raise money for the sculpture, which celebrates the legacy of the civil rights leader. I did a PSA sponsored by Boeing that first aired in January 2009 during Inauguration Weekend. As I told my mother while we watched some of the speeches in the green room before I went on, "If it weren't for King, I wouldn't be alive." I am biracial and there was a time in this country when my parents wouldn't have been allowed to marry.
The event was originally scheduled for August 28, but Hurricane Irene forced it to be postponed. We couldn't have asked for a more beautiful day last Sunday. News reports stated that there were 10,000 people gathered for the program. While hanging out in the green room I saw Tommy Hilfiger, poet Nikki Giovanni, Dan Rather, Jesse Jackson, Julian Bond and more. The best part was meeting legendary actress Cicely Tyson with whom I shared the stage as we presented a talk called "Reflections on Women of the Civil Rights Movement." She introduced me after explaining that Amandla means "power" in Zulu. Funny thing is we were so busy getting ready for our big moment, I forgot to tell her that I'd worked with her before. Well, kind of. She stars in Why Did I Get Married Too? and I did some voice-over work for it. She was so gracious and kind. It was such an honor to meet her!
There were so many renowned people on the program, including Dr. King's kids, sister and President Obama, who attended with his entire family. At the end there was a concert featuring Stevie Wonder, James Taylor and others. I took pictures with my family of the statue itself. It's 30 feet tall! That night, I visited the Lincoln Memorial. When I returned home, I saw that The Associated Press and Nick.com's Linda Ellerbee had featured some of my remarks in stories about the event. What a weekend!
Thank you to the Foundation, chief marketing strategist Ty Christian and the wonderful team at the The Caraway Group for creating this special opportunity for me. I am also grateful to Gene Varnado for creating the Boeing PSA that made this all possible.
For more photos of my weekend, which also included a gala, go to the Red Carpet gallery!
Amandla Stenberg Remarks
Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Dedication
Reflections on Women of the Civil Rights Movement
October 16, 2011
My knowledge of the civil rights movement is from what I’ve learned in school and what my parents taught me.
Today, I want to honor four little girls of the civil rights movement: eleven-year-old Denise McNair, fourteen year-old Addie Mae Collins; Carole Robertson, fourteen; and Cynthia Wesley, fourteen. In 1963, they were killed at Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama when a bomb exploded while they were in Sunday school.
I’m 12 years old. Those four little girls were my age. Although, they didn’t live long enough to be recognized as women of the civil rights movement, they should be part of that wonderful legacy because as Dr. King said at their funeral: “They didn’t live long lives, but they lived meaningful lives.”
I plan to live a meaningful life, too.