Richard Benjamin on the steps of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. building
On the 28th August we opened the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. building, which is next to the International Slavery Museum. It was opened to the public just for the day, for a series of events to commemorate and celebrate the 50th anniversary of Dr King’s now iconic speech. This has became known as the “I Have a Dream” speech - delivered on the steps of the iconic Lincoln memorial in Washington, D.C. on a scorching hot summer’s day in 1963 to a crowd of over 250,000.
Even though I delivered my welcome speech on the steps of our own iconic building, it was an average British summer’s day and the crowd was not quite the same! That said it was well attended on a momentous day - probably the first time in the buildings 160 year plus history that it was open for public events.
The day was a great success, and the public were treated to some fantastic performances on the steps of the building, such as the young people from the Greenhouse Project who produced a special dance piece and members of Curtis Watt’s poetry group who braved their nerves to give powerful readings which had been influenced by MLK’s speech, what it meant to them. Inside Vinnie Cleghorn ran an art workshop for all ages which eventually produced a fantastic artwork titled ‘the field of dreams’. Beautiful, powerful and thought provoking all at the same time.
Young people from the Greenhouse Project performing a special dance piece.
Other than celebrating one of the 20th century’s greatest speeches, one which in the words of the journalist Gary Younge projected “hope, patriotism, humanism and militancy,” the events continued the development of the International Slavery Museum of which the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. building will be new the front door. In 2012 we renamed the building in the presence of Dr King’s son, Martin Luther King III and this state-of-the-art facility will include education and community spaces; a theatre, a family history centre, research facilities and a collections centre.
As I said in my rather less iconic speech “Our ultimate aim is simple, ambitious but also achievable - to expand and evolve and become the leading museum and research institute in the world on the subject of slavery and enslavement. Opening this building today, to you, the people of Liverpool and beyond, lays down a marker; we are becoming fit-for-purpose.”
Watch this space as we intend to open the building when possible for other public events until our own dream is finally realised.