09/08/2005

Hundreds Expected at Dedication Ceremony

MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- Hundreds of Center friends and supporters from around the country are expected to be here October 23 for the dedication of the new Civil Rights Memorial Center and the Wall of Tolerance.

The event is scheduled for 2 p.m. that Sunday in an outdoor space adjacent to the Civil Rights Memorial and the new visitors center, located at the intersection of Hull and Washington streets.

The ceremony will be a highlight of the National Campaign for Tolerance, an initiative begun by the Center five ears ago that provided a unifying theme for its major programs while serving as a vehicle to mobilize Center supporters and others into a community of activists.

More than a quarter-million people have enlisted in the Campaign, and their names will be a part of the Wall of Tolerance, the centerpiece of the new Civil Rights Memorial Center. Because it employs computer technology rather than carved stone, future generations of Wall honorees can join those from earlier years, creating a timeless scroll of those committed to tolerance and justice.

"We're looking forward to seeing many of our supporters at this exciting event," said Center co-founder and chief trial counsel Morris Dees. "They have given us invaluable moral and financial support over the years, and together we have accomplished much to make our nation a better place."

NAACP chairman Julian Bond, the Center's first president and a member of its board of directors, will host the dedication. Other notable guests include several martyr family members. U. S. Rep. Artur Davis (D-Ala.), who was a Center legal intern early in his career, will deliver a keynote address.

To date, nearly 2,000 Center supporters have said they will be at the dedication. With that number likely to grow, the Center is recommending that those interested in attending make hotel reservations soon. A packet of information (PDF), including names and phone numbers of area hotels and a map, will be sent to those who tell the Center they will attend.

While in Montgomery, visitors are encouraged to see the city's many historic sites associated with both the Civil Rights Movement and the Civil War. They are also urged to take part in a variety of special activities (PDF) planned for the weekend.

The Civil Rights Memorial Center's opening coincides with the 50th anniversary of the Montgomery Bus Boycott and will expand the experience of the Civil Rights Memorial. The new Center will provide visitors with in-depth information about the people and events the Memorial honors. It contains a 56-seat auditorium where an original 20-minute film, Faces in the Water, will be shown. The Center also provides a display of contemporary social justice movements and an educational classroom.

A visitor's experience will close at the Wall of Tolerance, where those who have made a commitment to work in their daily lives for justice, equality and human rights — the ideals for which the civil rights martyrs died — are recognized.

The names are digitally projected onto a curved 20-by-40-foot surface and "rain" down like the water that sheets over the Civil Rights Memorial's black granite wall. A control panel enables someone visiting the Wall to easily call up his or her name.

"It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped," said Robert Kennedy in 1965. "Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope."

The purpose of the Civil Rights Memorial Center and the Wall of Tolerance is to inspire others to take a public stand for justice.