Thousands of projects are planned across America for the annual January 19, 2009 Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service. Select the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service project you'll like to participate in from an interactive map at the official MLKDay.gov website. Dr. King's real birthday is January 15th. The January 19th Day of Service was created by the U.S. Congress in 1994 to transform the federal holiday into an opportunity for community outreach. Tell your friends about all of the nationwide opportunities available this year.
The Washington, DC Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation Inc. has submitted it's formal request to the National Park Service for a permit to move forward with the construction of the Memorial. Construction is expected to begin on the four-acre memorial in November, 2008.
Later this Summer, a new documentary, Muhammad Ali: Made in Miami, will find its way to a PBS television station near you. This 2008 production begins in 1960 as it traces the young boxer known as Cassius Clay through his training at Miami, Florida's Fifth Street Gym. The release of the one hour documentary is timed to coincide with the August 8 - August 24 Summer Olympics in Beijing, although many PBS stations will repeat the program this Fall. Ali's trainer Angelo Dundee talks about the role Miami played in launching the boxing great. Historian Manning Marable, journalist David Remnick, and Ali biographer Thomas Hauser offer commentary and insight during the program. Ali's Miami neighbors and friends also weigh-in with their recollections. Watch for Muhammad Ali: Made in Miami in the coming months.
Oprah Winfrey and Discovery Communications have announced plans to create OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network. OWN will debut in 2009 in more than 70 million homes on what is currently the Discovery Health Channel. Oprah is pictured with David Zaslav, President and CEO of Discovery Communications, who stated at a January,15, 2008 press conference: "At Discovery, our goals are to improve the quality of the networks while expanding the reach and success of our web presence. This venture does both, and having Oprah as Chairman and creative leader makes OWN a very unique property in a crowded media landscape." OWN's mission is to create multiple platforms for women, men and their families with a purpose and a passion: to celebrate life, to inspire and entertain, empowering viewers around the world to live their best lives, and by doing so, lift the lives of those around them in ever-widening circles. In addition to providing her talent, and personal commitment, Winfrey will have full editorial control over the joint venture and will be responsible for OWN's programming, branding and creative vision. Winfrey will serve as Chairman of The Oprah Winfrey Network, LLC and the venture will be 50/50 owned by Discovery and her production company, Harpo. The Oprah Winfrey Network, LLC will be an independent company. Announced on Martin Luther King Jr.'s (real) birthday, January 15th, 2008, this is another historic move for Ms. Winfrey. I'm glad to see Oprah has taken the lead to provide more programming alternatives to established cable TV channels. We know who they are: BET, TV One, and others. However, OWN will probably be broad in scope, appealing to that mass audience Oprah knows how to attract just like a magnet.
With another $20 million needed to finish the Martin Luther King Jr. Washington, DC National Memorial, the race is on to capture more support for the project. Radio City Music Hall in New York City will host the Dream Concert on Tuesday, September 18, 2007, to benefit the DC King memorial. Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, Carlos Santana, Jessye Norman, Bebe & Cece Winans, and Robin Thicke will perform. Garth Brooks, Queen Latifah, Joss Stone, and Kenny "Babyface" Edmonds will also share the stage. Whoopi Goldberg will be a guest presenter for the evening. Tickets go on sale Monday, July 30th, at 9am.
Quincy Jones, Russell Simmons, David Stern, Joel Horowitz, Edgar Bronfman Jr., and Tommy Hilfiger have come together to create The Dream Concert, a one-night benefit for The Martin Luther King Jr. Washington DC National Memorial. Stern is the Commissioner of the National Basketball Association, Bronfman the Chairman of the Warner Music Group, and Horowitz is the CEO of Tommy Hilfiger. Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis will be the artistic directors of The Dream Concert. Jam and Lewis have produced Grammy Award winning albums for many artists, including Janet Jackson. The Martin Luther King Jr. Washington DC National Memorial project is running out of time to secure the rest of the money needed to finish construction. Groundbreaking took place on November 13, 2006. $21 million is still needed to complete the $100 million project. Muhammad Ali, Angela Bassett, Jamie Foxx, Whoopi Goldberg, Cuba Gooding Jr., Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Kerry Washington, and former New York City Mayor David Dinkins are on the host committee for the Tuesday, September 18, 2007 Dream Concert at Radio City Music Hall in the Big Apple. You can go to the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial for further information. The King Memorial is scheduled to be completed in 2008.
The Tuskegee Airmen received the Congressional Gold Medal from President George W. Bush on March 29, 2007. The Congressional Gold Medal is the highest civilian honor given by the U.S. Congress. Tuskegee airman Dr. Roscoe Brown, a former commander of the 100th Fighter Squadron, 332nd Fighter Group, thanked President Bush, the House, and the Senate for "voting unanimously to award this medal collectively to the pilots, bombardiers, the navigators, the mechanics, the ground officers, the enlisted men and women who served with the Tuskegee Airmen." Retired Lt. Col. Alexander Jefferson, a pilot with the 332nd Fighter Group also addressed the crowd gathered at the U.S. Capitol. The Tuskegee Airmen were an elite group of African American pilots in the 1940s. They were black history pioneers in equality and integration of the U.S. Armed Forces. According to U.S. Army Airman Brian Butkus, 375th Airlift Wing, "Tuskegee Airmen" refers to anyone involved in the Army Air Corps program to train African Americans to fly and maintain combat aircraft. Butkus confirms that The Tuskegee Airmen included: Pilots Navigators Bombardiers Maintenance and support staff Instructors All personnel who kept the planes in the air. Most service-member flight training took place at the Division of Aeronautics of Tuskegee Institute. Air Corps officials built a separate facility at Tuskegee Army Air Field to train the pilots. The Tuskegee Airmen not only battled enemies during wartime but also fought against racism and segregation. Racism was common during World War II. Many people did not want blacks to become pilots. By the end of World War II, 992 men had graduated from pilot training at Tuskegee; 450 were sent overseas for combat assignment, and about 150 lost their lives while in training or on combat flights. On November 6, 1998, President Bill Clinton approved Public Law 105-355, which established the Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site at Moton Field in Tuskegee, Alabama, to commemorate and interpret the heroic actions of the Tuskegee Airmen during World War II. * special thanks to the U.S. Army for providing some of the official background information.
Muhammad Ali has been honored as a "Living Legend" by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), and the Ghanaian based African Communications Agency (ACA). "The Greatest" is a 2007 inductee into the ECOWAS Hall of Fame. Ali's African connection dates back to 1974, when he faced George Foreman in Kinshasa, Zaire for the "Rumble in the Jungle." Mr. Ali accepted his award by telephone from the United States during an elegant awards banquet held at the Nicon Hilton Hotel in Abuja, Nigeria. Dr. Erieka Bennett, Vice Chairman of the ACA and founder of the Diaspora African Forum proclaimed "we are honored to celebrate the life of Muhammad Ali." Accepting the award, a grateful Ali declared "this tribute is especially meaningful to me as we celebrate Black History Month here in America." Past ECOWAS Living Legend Award recipients include: Nelson Mandela (former South African President) Kofi Anan (former United Nations Secretary General) Dudley Thompson (former Jamaican Ambassador to Nigeria) Ruth Sando Perry, (former President of Liberia) Professor Wole Soyinka, (Nigeria) Dr. Babacar Ndiaye (former President, African Development Bank) Dr Bamanga Tukur (former Nigerian Minister of Industry) Muhammad Ali, born Cassius Clay on January 17, 1942, won an Olympic gold medal in Rome as a light heavy weight in 1960. He defeated Sonny Liston in 1964 to win the heavy weight championship for the first time. Ali won the crown again in 1974 by beating George Foreman. "The Greatest" became the first person in boxing history to win the heavy weight title three times when he took out Leon Spinks in 1978. Ali refused to be drafted into the U.S. Army (he was a conscientious objector on religious and moral grounds). He was stripped of his first title in 1967. The official Muhammad Ali website has much more for you to enjoy!
Museums that focus on the critical role of African Americans in U.S. history and culture are more popular than ever, and several cities are planning new or expanded facilities to attract tourists and scholars. Birmingham, Alabama has a civil rights district that includes the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, the site of a 1963 bombing that killed four young girls. Another exhibit features the door to the jail cell where Martin Luther King Jr. sat in 1963 and wrote his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.” There are approximately 200 U.S. museums that focus on the African American experience. Several new projects are on the drawing board. Here are a few: A museum in Atlanta to exhibit the papers of Martin Luther King Jr. United States National Slavery Museum in Fredericksburg, Virginia National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC. The old F.W. Woolworth store in Greensboro, North Carolina, is being converted into a museum that will display the “whites only” lunch counter where, in 1960, four black college students launched the sit-in movement to protest segregation. One of the newest museums is the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati, which opened in 2004. It tells the stories of the estimated 100,000 slaves who escaped via the “underground railroad,” a loose network of clandestine routes and safe havens provided by abolitionists, freed slaves and other sympathizers. Not all African American museums focus primarily on slavery or civil rights. Museums in Dallas and New Orleans, among others, are dedicated to African American art and culture. Kansas City, Missouri, has the American Jazz Museum. There’s the National Afro-American Museum and Cultural Center in Wilberforce, Ohio, which created an exhibit that traced African dance over 400 years. In New York, the Museum for African Art is being expanded and moved to a new home where it will be “a cultural gateway to Harlem,” according to Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The new museum in Washington, DC, which will take several years to develop, is going to cover the breadth of experience from African origins down to the present. These museums are not just aimed at an African American audience, they are for everyone. They create the opportunity to really understand the history of black people in the USA. Louise Fenner contributed to the research and wrote portions of this article. Check out the Association of African American Museums for more details and links to black museums across the USA.