(CBS) — The nation pauses today to pay tribute to the legacy of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Junior. Work is underway on what organizers call the city’s first ever memorial here. CBS 2’s Vince Gerasole gives us a sneak peek.
Carved into clay a difficult moment from Chicago history takes form.
“We didn’t like actually having violent imagery in stone,” said sculptor Sonja Henderson.
The sculpture documents the summer of 1966, when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was hit by a stone as he led hundreds marchers through the South Side demanding fair and equal housing. They were met by angry crowds along the way and 40 were arrested
“We got to a point where we thought it was really important that people know the history and we use that as our point of departure,” Henderson said.
It eventually shows the hope of multicultural families coming together and living in harmony in Dr. King’s iconic dream.
“We hope that this monument will be an inspiration to people,” said sculptor John Pitman Weber.
When completed this summer it will be installed in Marquette Park.
“In the very neighborhood that he walked, that 700 people marched with him, bled, who were willing to challenge Chicago to live up to better ideals,” said Rami Nashashibi of the Inner City Muslim Action Network.
Organizers say the structure is the city’s first ever memorial and permanent art installation to Dr. King.
“It is a tragedy that we don’t have something that commemorates that history and that points to something that inspires us to move forward,” said Nashashibi.
The work of over a dozen grass roots organizations, the project has been 10 years in the making, documenting a moment of both struggle and determination.
“A moment of determination because King and the marchers were determined that even in the face of that, we would move forward as a community, as a city, as a country to live up to higher ideals”, said Nashashibi.
30 marchers, including Dr. King were injured that day, but by the end of the year the effort paid off, with the Chicago real estate board agreeing to end its opposition to fair and open housing laws.
The sculpture is slated for dedication this August 5, the 50-year anniversary of the march through Marquette Park.