Friday, December 8, 2023

What’s going on with the MLK memorial? Here’s an update

The memorial for Martin Luther King Jr. is finally making progress through a newly created committee to design the project. (WYDaily/File photo)
The memorial for Martin Luther King Jr. is finally making progress through a newly created committee to design the project. (WYDaily/File photo)

The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Committee is continuing to work on plans for a memorial honoring the late Civil Rights leader in Williamsburg.

But have recent events such as the protests and coronavirus pandemic helped expedite the process?

Brian Smalls, chairman of the committee and the York-Williamsburg-James City NAACP chapter, said they are still working on it.

“We’ve been active,” the local attorney said, adding they are still going through the process. “We’ve been meeting at least once a month for the past couple of months.”

Smalls said the memorial is also going to pay tribute to other people in the area who played a significant role shaping the Williamsburg community.

While they have yet to narrow down specific individuals for the memorial, Small said the committee is going through a list of people and have created five categories: Education, faith leaders, business community including civic leaders and a miscellaneous category.

Another unknown is the number of people to be chosen. Once they narrow down who the people are, committee members can figure out plans for a specific memorial.

“It may be a situation where we look for alternative locations in the city of Williamsburg because obviously we want it to be in a location where there is a lot of foot traffic,” he said. “So we’re not particularly excluding that location but we are keeping our options open.”

The “Future Site of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial” sign at the intersection of Scotland and Prince George streets has been there since the 1990s.

But it was never built.

RELATED STORY: City moves forward on decades-old plans for MLK memorial

One idea thrown around is a historic trail, where various locations could come together to serve as the memorial, he added.

“We have folks that have already committed to playing a role from a financial standpoint and obviously that is going to play a role as to what this memorial is going to look like,” Smalls said.

He said the committee is “taking a page from the folks over at William & Mary”: The Lemon Project, in terms of fundraising for the memorial. He added they don’t want to lock themselves in to a single dollar amount and would rather come up with a concept and then raise funds.

But there are a lot of moving parts.

The coronavirus pandemic is still happening and a new City Council is coming on board next month. While the project will continue to move forward, Smalls said he understands where they are from the budgeting perspective.

“I’m just saying from a realistic standpoint we have to kind of be mindful of where we are right now in the world as far as COVID-19 and governments being impacted,” Smalls said.

Once the committee meets with council, then they can put a specific timeline for the memorial.

WYDaily reached out to the Williamsburg City Council. Both Mayor Paul Freiling and COuncilwoman Barbara Ramsey were not immediately available for comment.


Julia Marsigliano
Julia Marsigliano
Julia Marsigliano is a multimedia reporter for WYDaily. She covers everything on the Peninsula from local government and law enforcement agencies to family-run businesses and weather updates. Before WYDaily, she covered Hampton and Newport News for WYDaily’s sister publication, HNNDaily before both publications merged in December 2018. Julia was born in Tokyo, Japan and moved to Long Island, New York in 2001. A true New Yorker, she loves pizza, bagels and good Chinese food. Send comments, tips and other tidbits to You can follow her on Twitter at @jmarsigliano

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