More stars join King Memorial dedication ceremony

Performers Stevie Wonder, James Taylor and Sheryl Crow have been added to the lineup for Sunday’s rescheduled dedication of Washington’s new Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, the head of the memorial’s foundation said Thursday.

Harry E. Johnson Sr., the foundation’s chief executive, said the four will join Aretha Franklin, who plans to sing the gospel hymn “Precious Lord,” one of King’s favorites, at the dedication ceremonies on the Tidal Basin.

Singer Jennifer Holliday and the music group Sweet Honey in the Rock are also scheduled to appear, along with a host of dignitaries and artists, at the event, which runs from 8 a.m. through 11 a.m. at the memorial, off Independence Avenue.

In an interview, Johnson also addressed the controversy over an inscription on the memorial’s main statue of King.

The inscription — “I was a drum major for justice, peace and righteousness” — has been criticized as a misleading paraphrase of a King sermon that some say makes the civil rights leader seem arrogant.

Johnson said he met with Interior Secretary Ken Salazar last week and they agreed to revisit the inscription after the dedication.

Johnson said of the inscription: “Some people it bothers; some people it doesn’t. . . . It does not bother me . . . it was not intended to be a quotation. It was intended to be a paraphrase.”

He said he does not think the paraphrase is too egregious. The full wording from King’s sermon reads: “If you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice. Say that I was a drum major for peace. I was a drum major for righteousness. And all of the other shallow things will not matter.”

Johnson urged that visitors focus on the entire message of the memorial.

Mike is a general assignment reporter who also covers Washington institutions and historical topics.
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