Local News

MLK Statue Controversy Leads To Petition

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ROCKY MOUNT, N.C. — Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is an historical figure whose face is as familiar as his name. That is why many people in Rocky Mount want a statue of King fixed.

They say the statue looks nothing like the civil rights leader.

Since WRAL first reported the story on July 2, a new petition is seeking a change.

Many in Rocky Mount have long wanted to honor Dr. King with a park, a memorial and a statue. People love the park. They love the memorial. They even love the black marble base on which the statue stands.

But they don't like the statue.

"This does not resemble Dr. Martin Luther King," said Rev. Elbert Lee, a man who once marched with Dr. King. "It is a long ways off -- long ways off.

"I walked with him. I suffered with him. (I know) his nose, his whole feature, the eyes. And this statue is no ways like that."

The local NAACP organized a petition drive for the city to fix the problem -- and the process by which the $55,000 sculpture was approved.

"Do we keep the statue"? said City Council member Reuben Blackwell. "Do we change the statue? Do we get rid of the statue and commission a new statue?

"Whatever we do, we've got to do it together as a community."

Blackwell said an MLK Commission only approved the statue's pose -- and never saw a clear model of the face.

"To me, the facial issue should have been the most important piece," Blackwell said.

City administrators have agreed to meet with residents and talk about solutions. The statue controversy will be part of Monday night's regular city council meeting.

For Rev. Lee, there is only one solution.

"To me," he said," the whole statue really needs to come down."


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