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The first look at the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial brought some visitors to tears Monday as they struggled to explain what they were feeling.
This is awesome, this is awesome, and he looks so strong standing there,” Kwanzaa Nivens, 36, of Washington said through tears as she stood at the base of the 30-foot-tall granite statue of King on the National Mall.
The memorial, on 4 acres overlooking the Tidal Basin, will be dedicated Sunday. It opened to the public for the first time Monday.
Nivens waited in line 90 minutes and was one of the first to be let onto the memorial site.
The Internal Revenue Service employee had the day off and decided to see the $120 million creation that has been at least 15 years in the making. Excerpts from King’s speeches are inscribed on the walls on either side of the statue.
“It’s extremely important because not that long ago, Dr. King was here on the Lincoln Memorial fighting for equality,” said Nivens, who is black. “To see his statue here and a memorial for him here is overwhelming, so overwhelming.”
Monday’s debut kicks off a week of black-tie, white-tie and informal events all geared toward raising money for and drawing attention to the memorial and Sunday’s dedication.
During that event, President Obama will bury a time capsule that will include items from him, the memorial foundation and the King family, said Harry Johnson, CEO of the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial Foundation.
The dedication will take place on the anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington, during which King delivered his seminal “I Have a Dream” speech.
The week will bring together civil rights luminaries, including Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., the last surviving organizer of the March on Washington; Joseph Lowery, who helped launch the Southern Christian Leadership Conference; and former United Nations ambassador and King confidante Andrew Young.
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article courtesy of BCNN1.com

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