The focal point of the memorial is a 1,600-metric-ton granite structure called the mountains of despair, a theme from Reverend King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech. A sculpture of King is carved from the center piece.
Lei was born to a family of scholars in Changsha, Hunan, China and was one of millions of "bourgeois educated youth" sent to the countryside during the Cultural Revolution. As a way to develop a skill other than farming during the seven years he spent toiling in the fields, Lei started drawing. His diary became his scrapbook, with a few lines of comments of his drawings. When Lei applied to college, he submitted the diary as his portfolio. Lei was among the first class of students after the Cultural Revolution to be able to go to art school in 1978; he graduated in 1982.
Lei came to the attention of the American public when he was named artist-of-record and commissioned to sculpt the centerpiece for the proposed monument to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The announcement of Yixin spurred an international protest spearheaded by Gilbert Young and Lea-Winfrey Young, co-founders of the organization King Is Ours, a multi-racial and multi-cultural organization formed to protest the decisions made by the King Memorial Project Foundation which included choosing Yixin without due process. According to Agence France-Presse, it was only by chance that memorial organizers found Lei when they visited an international granite-carving festival in the American state of Minnesota. Yixin was "discovered" under a tree, taking a nap after he was pointed out to the King Memorial Project Foundation committee with the words, "you should talk to that guy over there," pointing to Lei.
BAYARD RUSTIN born March 17, 1912 in West Chester, Pennsylvania was an African-American civil rights activist, important largely behind the scenes in the civil rights movement of the 1960s. He was an earlier and principal organizer of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Rustin was one of the most influential civil rights activists of the 1950s and '60s, yet he maintained a low profile, reserving the spotlight for other prominent figures, including Martin Luther King, Jr. and A. Phillip Randolph. He counseled Martin Luther King, Jr. on the techniques of nonviolent resistance. Because of his homosexuality, his role was hidden from the world.
He was a firm believer in and practitioner of nonviolent forms of protest. Reared by his maternal grandparents. Rustin's grandmother, Julia, was a Quaker, though she attended her husband's A.M.E. Church. She was also a member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
When Rustin and Randolph organized the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963, Senator Strom Thurmond railed against Rustin as a "Communist, draft-dodger, and homosexual" and produced an FBI photograph of Rustin talking to King while King was bathing, to imply that there was a homosexual relationship between the two. Both men denied the allegation of an affair, but despite King's support, NAACP chairman Roy Wilkins did not allow Rustin to receive any public recognition for his role in planning the march. Rustin died on August 24, 1987, of a perforated appendix.
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