“We had a dream that one day our fraternity brother would stand on ground that has only been used to memorialize presidents or military personnel,” said Lawrenceville resident Michael Woodward, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity member.
Woodward and his fraternity spearheaded fundraising throughout the state for the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial which was dedicated by President Barack Obama on Sunday, October 16th. The dedication was officially postponed in late August due to Hurricane Irene.
The dedication was rescheduled, and with good weather predicted Woodward and his fellow bus passengers were Washington bound. Throughout the weekend activities were scheduled to memorialize Dr. King and his historic accomplishments.
Departing late Friday night, Woodward and his group of 23 made up of students, business leaders and community activists arrived in DC early Saturday morning. While there, they visited all of the monuments on the mall. They returned early Monday morning.
During the more than eight hour bus ride home, Woodward said he had time to reflect upon all that it took to make this event happen. Woodward contributed to making this dream a reality, by making many cross state trips, organizing fundraising events and soliciting donations from businesses, corporations and private donors from around the state. While other chapters of his fraternity organized and held similar fundraising events around the country and abroad.
Dr. King’s fraternity helped raise $117 million of the $120 million raised. Woodward, with the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, helped to raise $387,000 from donations in the state of Georgia alone in over a ten year period. As direct contributors, the fraternity as a whole raised three million dollars worldwide, making them the largest direct donors to the King monument.
Fundraising events included galas, church collections, MLK breakfasts and luncheons, golf tournaments, and silent auctions.
Many of those who attended this historic event with Woodward shed tears of joy and relief at witnessing their vision and dream in person. Some of the bus passengers actually participated in the civil rights movement with Dr. King. They said to Woodward they could feel Dr. King’s spirit in and around this tribute to the civil rights leader.
Woodward, in addition to being a counselor at one of the local schools, is also one of the founders and a Director of the LEAD (Leadership Education and Development) Foundation, whose motto is “Developing tomorrow’s leaders today." The foundation works with youth from six-grade to college students in developing and teaching soft skills outside of classrooms, i.e. public speaking, interviewing skills, test taking skills, college entry process and health and welfare, etiquette and how to dress for success. Participants go on college tours, receive scholarships and laptops.
Some of these students in LEAD accompanied Woodward and others on the bus ride to the nation’s capitol. While there they witnessed firsthand the dedication ceremony that Woodward and his fraternity worked so hard to bring about.
“To actually stand on those sacred grounds and to see all of the efforts and many contributions that went into making this monument of Martin Luther King, Jr. possible is just indescribable,” said Woodward.