ATLANTA – A new monument and garden celebrating and honoring the legacy of civil rights activist Coretta Scott King was dedicated on Thursday, which would have been her 96th birthday.
The Coretta Scott King Peace and Meditation Garden and monument sits on the grounds of The King Center in Atlanta, which she founded in 1968 to memorialize the life, work, legacy and commitment to nonviolence of her husband, slain civil rights leader the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
“The magnitude of her contributions to humanity are yet to be known," the Rev. Bernice King, CEO of The King Center, said of her mother. "Today’s dedication of this monument is but a beginning. There’s much more to come, and when her legacy is fully revealed, we will know that because of her, because of Mom, because of Coretta Scott King, the dream lives and the legacy continues.”
After a program featuring speeches, a poem and musical performances, Bernice King and her niece Yolanda Renee King — the 14-year-old daughter of Martin Luther King III — together untied a ribbon on the gate of the garden and cut another ribbon on the monument.
Also on hand for the ceremony was MLK lieutenant and former Atlanta mayor and United Nations ambassador Andrew Young, civil rights advocate Xernona Clayton, as well as other King family members and civic leaders.
The monument was created by artist Saya Woolfalk, who said the desire of the King family to have it on the “sacred ground” of The King Center, rather than a site somewhere else in the city as originally planned, was meaningful to her.
“It’s an immersive environment," Woolfalk said of the work she created. "It’s not a representational sculpture. It’s intended to make you feel like you’re in the spirit of Mrs. King. So you walk into the space, and you feel her spirit.”
The monument features a circular “chapel dome” made of steel that is open on the sides. Underneath the domed canopy is a bronze cast sculpture of microphones that includes a live microphone that Woolfalk said is meant to allow visitors “to speak their own words and commitments to civil rights and nonviolence.” The floor is a tiled mosaic of the rose that bears King's name.
The garden features a stone-paved area flanked by benches and flower beds leading up to the monument. It is near the eternal flame that burns next to the pool that surrounds the crypt that holds the Kings' bodies.
The monument was commissioned by Hulu as part of its “Made By Her: Monuments” project, which aims to chip away at the gender disparities in public art. Similar monuments to journalist and conservationist Marjory Stoneman Douglas and Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg have been commissioned in Miami and Los Angeles, respectively.
The monuments all include the canopy structure to link them as part of “a kind of sisterhood of sacred sites,” said Woolfalk, who designed all three.