Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial
From the south end of Yerba Buena Gardens comes the unmistakable roar of a waterfall, designed in part to provide a soothing carpet of noise that literally drowns out the hustle and bustle of busy Mission, Third and Fourth streets which border the landscaped Gardens. On closer inspection, however, the waterfall shelters more than visitors' ears it provides a backdrop to 'Revelations,' a site-specific public art installation memorializing the great civil rights leader, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
The multi-layered memorial places prominence on the spoken words of Dr. King, and offers 'a cultural pilgrimage and contemplative metaphorical journey of transformation,' according to the designers. Sculptor Houston Conwill, architect Joseph De Pace and poet Estella Conwill Majozo collaborated on the project, which opened in October, 1993.
Visitors entering from the east or left side will pass the first granite panel of quotations, spoken by Dr. King in San Francisco in 1956 and employing imagery from the African-American blues tradition:
'I believe the day will come when all God's children, from bass black to treble white, will be significant on the Constitution's keyboard."'
A photograph of San Francisco civil rights activists commemorating the 20th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington is on the right-hand side.
Continuing along the 'floating bridge' walkway, the visitor reads carefully-selected quotations of Dr. King carved onto 12 transparent glass tablets.
Below each quotation is a translation in one of the 12 languages spoken by San Francisco's international sister cities, signifying the 'call and response' and the 12 bars of the traditional blues form. Sydney, Australia; Manila, Philippines; Osaka, Japan; Taipei,
Taiwan; Seoul, Korea; Shanghai, China; Haifa, Israel; Thessaloniki, Greece; Assisi, Italy; Cork, Ireland; Abidjan, Ivory Coast; Caracas, Venezuela; Esteli, Nicaragua; Amman, Jordan; and Durban, South Africa are represented linguistically, although no reference to any one nation is made explicitly.
The translations are ordered according to their geographic sequence from east to west according to the sun's movement, reading as a journey around the world.
After the last glass panel, the visitor passes a photograph of Dr. King delivering his famous
'I Have a Dream' speech.
Just before exiting the grotto into the open sunlight of the park again, a final granite panel combines the sensory experience of being under a waterfall with Dr. King's bold vision to realize the most powerful effect yet. The words are taken from his 1963 speech:
'No, we are not satisfied and we will not be satisfied until 'justice rolls down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream'
Between Third and Fourth, Mission and Howard streets, adjacent to Moscone Convention Center and across Third Street from the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.
The Yerba Buena Alliance
Hours: The park is open from sunrise to 10 p.m.
Admission: The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial and Waterfall can be visited at no charge in Yerba Buena Gardens. Every day.