Entertainment

Martin Luther King Admirers Speak at Historic Ben’s Chili Bowl in D.C.

Sun., Aug. 28, 2011 5:44 PM EDT
by Terry Shropshire

Martin Luther King met and ate here during Civil Rights days. Bill Cosby dated wife Camille here as well

WASHINGTON – Martin Luther King Jr.’s international coronation, replete with a scheduled speech by President Barack Obama, was rudely interrupted by an earthquake and Hurricane Irene. But Mother Nature’s wrath was not strong enough to stop the tens of thousands of admirers from pouring into the District from around the nation and spilling the contents of their hearts at the foot of the King Monument on the National Mall.

Rolling out spoke with many visitors and residents in D.C., particularly at the iconic landmark, Ben’s Chili Bowl on famous U Street. MLK, Ralph Abernathy, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Ambasador Andrew Young and many others were allowed to meet and dine at the delicious eatery during segregation days to plot their nonviolent revolution known as the Civil Rights Movement.

Here’s what some members of the public had to say about the enormity of such an occasion as this:

Clarence Barns, Washington, D.C., native, with his two daughters:

Are you going to the MLK Memorial?

I’m going to take my two children and my wife down to the Mall on Sunday to look at the [MLK] memorial. I just think it’s a monumental event to be able to touch the monument in our city, especially with the way that he was, the time and his message. And it’s good that he’s finally being recognized for all of his efforts. I think it’s just a big step.

What will you say to your daughters? I don’t think that it will hit them like it will older people. With them being so young and already experiencing a black president. I’m sure they’ll still enjoy the experience.

Bridgette Gilchrist (left), from Omaha, Neb.: We want to view the Memorial before the crowds.

What does the MLK monument mean to you individually?

I’m just really, really proud to see a black man being honored in such a way. I pray it won’t be the last. But [the monument] is still not fully funded, which is incredible to me with all the influential black people with money. There is no reason why it’s still not fully funded. And I just want everyone to go there and enjoy that and feel a sense of pride — white or black. That man gave his life for everyone. He rose up and shook this place [referring to the earthquake that hit on Tuesday, Aug. 23]. When the Earth started shaking, I said ‘that’s the Reverend, OK?’ ”

Roberta Sonsaray White (right), from Omaha, Neb.: – Been here 11 years and this is my first time in Ben’s Chili Bowl.

What did you eat? A Ben’s Chili dog.

Why did you come? A friend from back home said ‘have you ever been to that chili place? So I said that I was going to go for lunch.

What does the monument mean to you? I just think it’s amazing. And then he’s standing as a sign of pride. So it makes me happy. I mean, we still have a whole lot of work to do in order to be honored and respected as people without stipulations about our color. But to see what his sacrifices have brought to the nation’s capitol, makes proud to be a resident here.

What about having Barack Obama as president during the completion of the memorial?

Timing is everything [as said in] Romans 8:28: “All things work together for the good of those who love the Lord and are called according to His purpose.”

Marie Makamura (left), visiting from Tokyo:

Ever been here before?

This is my first time here in Ben’s Chili Bowl.

Andrew Thomas (right), from Pittsburgh, Pa.:

Why did you chose to eat at Ben’s Chili Bowl?

Because it’s a D.C. icon. If you lived here for more than two years and don’t know of this place, then something’s wrong:

Favorite dish?

The half-smoked, of course. What kind of question is that? [Laughing].

Are you aware of the MLK memorial celebration?

No. I just got back from Japan and I don’t know what’s going on.

What do you think about a memorial to celebrate Dr. King’s life?

In my opinion, it should have come a lot sooner than it did. He should have been honored a long time ago. It’s nice that they are finally gave him something after a long time. He’s on a plane not any human can really touch. Several people in the world have ever ascended to the level that he’s on. During my short stay here, I’m definitely going to check [the memorial] out.

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