Monday, January 17, 2011

Celebrating 25 Years of Dr. King's Holiday

Twenty-five years ago today, we celebrated the first Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday. I was 11 years old and about to put a ribbon on my 6th grade year. I vaguely knew who Dr. King was, but I didn't know much about him, because like most kids we tend to read what our teacher requires us to read. I read other things, but mostly smuggled copies of Stephen King. It wasn't until my tenth grade year that I became interested in the things for which Dr. King fought. I know, I was a little late, but you have to understand, I spent from kindergarten until ninth grade in predominately white schools. I had only had 6 black teachers during that time period. I live in Mississippi, guess what wasn't really discussed.

Civil Rights March on Washington, D.C.

During my 10th grade year, my whole world changed. My school district had ruled to be practicing segregation. The year was 1989. My high school went from 70% white, 30% black to 20% white, 80% black overnight. That year, I also had a unique individual as a history teacher. Ironically, he was a white man, but he opened my eyes to so many history events that I never even thought about including the Civil Rights movement. I started reading about Dr. King, Malcolm X, Anne Moody, Maya Angelou, Zora Neale Hurston, Medgar Evers, Margaret Walker Alexander, Richard Wright, Toni Morrison, and Alex Haley.

When I began working at my current school, I was the only black teacher in the jr/sr high school. Nine years later, I still am. I was given the task to presenting the annual Black History Month program. No, I do not teach history. I assume that they only trusted me to do it right. Every year, it amazes me how many of our African American children can name every member of Lil Wayne's entourage, but don't know who Medgar Evers is. There is a clinic named after him in Fayette, Mississippi. I have students who pass it every day and didn't know who he was. They can tell you everything about Biggie and Tupac, but who asked my co-worker if Ghosts of Mississippi was a true story.

I'm saying we have a long way to go as a people. We concern ourselves with too many of the wrong things. I look at some of the "role models" our children have, and I have to shake my head. We have a finally have a black president Barack Obama, but it seems that any child who adopt his route is a "sell-out" or an assimilationist. Why? Children, who try to better themselves with an education, are mocked in our society. Why? Our children are encouraged to be entertainers or athletes instead of doctors or lawyers. Why? We need to take a hard look at ourselves, as a people.

Dr. King and many others died to make it possible for us to do many of the great things we are accomplishing as a people. Have we accomplished his dream? How would he see us "his children" today? Would he be proud? I think yes and no.

Today, we celebrate his birthday and the changes he helped to bring about in this country. There is a climate of hatred that is again working its way across our country. We all have to work to make this our country better. We need to do more service. We all need to better educate ourselves. We all need to vote. We need to make our voices heard. We need to unite as a people...not as just black people or white people, but as Americans.

Happy Birthday, Brother Martin. My sincere wish is that we all continue to make strides to continue to make this world a better place.

"Everybody can be great. Because anybody can serve. You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve.... You don't have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love." ~Martin Luther King, Jr.

No comments:

Post a Comment