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Next Steps for Project to be revealed

April 10, 2017 Dublin, GA
Dublin is bustling as the city prepares to reveal her newly completed Martin Luther King, Jr. Monument Park on April 17th at 2 PM at 317 Telfair Street in Downtown Dublin.

Visit Dublin GA Chairman and Dublin City Councilman, Bill Brown encouraged the public to attend saying, “This project has been the best example of private citizens and businesses working together with public organizations like The City of Dublin, Visit Dublin GA, and Dublin Downtown Development Authority to build a public space we can all be proud of and be inspired by. The completion of this new monument marks the site of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s first public speech and a new day in Dublin. A day to dream and be inspired, not only by Dr. King, but by each other.”
King delivered his first public address on April 17, 1944, at First African Baptist Church as part of an oratorical contest, a fact which was discovered by local historian, Scott Thompson, who shared the information during a Georgia Department of Economic Development Tourism Resource Team visit in 2010. In late 2013, Visit Dublin GA in partnership with First African Baptist Church, City of Dublin, Dublin Downtown Development Authority, and Laurens County Historical Society set to work planning an interactive monument and plaza to commemorate the historic speech site.

Joshua Kight, former executive director of the DDA who sketched out the initial plans for the monument, noted that the plans originally called for a small statue on the site but the plan grew, to become both a monument to Dr. King and a new gateway entrance into downtown Dublin. “Dublin has a proud history and the MLK speech site provides an opportunity to celebrate that history, beautify, and develop the Highway 441 entrance into downtown to
make our area more attractive to visitors and will contribute to the continuing cultural and economic progress in our community.”

The monument features an open space plaza with a modern and wistful mural by Atlanta artist Corey Barksdale as its focal point. Barksdale is currently designing and crafting the sculpture that will stand in the center of the plaza. The sculpture is set for installation in June.

A photo mural highlighting King’s speech and marking First African Baptist Church as pivotal in King’s journey by Dublin photographer and graphic artist, Randall Gearhart, is on the interior of the gateway wall surrounding the plaza, along with a seating area. Gearhart visited the site often, photographing the park’s progress, and quietly working behind the scenes to insure each part of the project was picture perfect.

“I am humbled by the amount of love each partner has brought to this project. So much of this project was completed by local businesses, people, and talent. From Trey and his staff with GreenScapes to Pam with Sign A Rama, to Wayne McCary and Deborah Stanley with The City of Dublin,and Fairview Park Hospital who sponsored the development of a new audio tour, each person who has worked on the MLK Monument Park devoted themselves to building a shining example of unity, hope, and inspiration,” said Rebecca McWilliam, Visit Dublin GA.

Not only locals jumped at the chance to work on MLK Monument Park. Oliver Seabolt with Orion Planning Group out of St. Simons Island, Georgia was thrilled to work on the concepts for the expanded space directly across from First African Church, saying, “The significance of Dr. King’s first public speech at the First African Baptist Church is monumental for the City of Dublin and an invaluable memory for the Church. I couldn’t have been more excited or honored when asked to design a monument and plaza commemorating Dr. King’s first public speech. This was a rare opportunity to create a place that honors and memorializes one of the most influential leaders of our time. Dr. King’s ‘voice’ paved the way for racial equality and his ‘voice’ was first heard at the First African Baptist Church. This was a true milestone in Dr. King’s crusade which ultimately influenced the design. A monument, plaza, and integrated
landscape were developed as one cohesive destination that will provide an educational and emotional experience honoring this historic event and the later accomplishments Dr. King.”

According to Rebecca McWilliam, Director of Visit Dublin GA, cultural and heritage tourism is one of the fastest growing segments of the tourism industry, with over 78% of travelers participating in cultural activities during their vacations. “With its interactive audio tour and mobile app, deep symbolism, and peaceful yet vibrant design, the monument creates a space that pays homage to the achievements of Dr. King and celebrates his legacy while also being a place of reflection and inspiration. We hope that generations of visitors and locals alike will use this space as a catalyst for envisioning positive change in their world.”

The project is a partnership effort between The City of Dublin, Visit Dublin GA, Dublin Downtown Development Authority, and First African Baptist Church. Many organizations, including the Dublin-Laurens Historical Society, Georgia Department of Economic Development Tourism Division, and others, have pledged support for the effort, and have joined in grant applications to help fund the project.

“This is a time for Dublin’s heart to shine and inspire the world. On April 17th, we’ll celebrate not only Dr. King and his legacy of peace, but we’ll celebrate each other. We’ll celebrate partnerships and we’ll hear how unity, like Dr. King’s message of hope, spreads and grows like wildflowers. Oliver Stepe, President of YKK AP, will join us and share how YKK AP is sowing the seeds of philanthropy to grow the Martin Luther King, Jr. Monument Park,” McWilliam continues, “We hope the whole Georgia community will join us, whether by hand or in spirit on April 17th at 2 PM.”