“Happy Martin Luther King Day!” – if I hear that thoughtlessly trite comment one more time . . . . . . ! Happy is not the theme of MLK Day. This special commemoration is not just a national holiday, nor is it a day for big box sales or simply hunkering down. Instead, MLK Day offers a day to remember, to reflect, to spend time with friends, neighbors, people we don’t even know yet. This is a day to realize the significance of the man and the movement he represents.
As the decades pass, memories fade, reflections disperse, while the imperative to realize must prevail.
When my first-grader grandson announced that Monday is a “free day” it raised my awareness of the challenge. Will assured me he had learned all about Martin Luther King in kindergarten – when pressed, he patiently explained that what he had learned was that MLK “had a dream.” To the great credit of his Yinghua kindergarten teacher he had learned to recite the “I Have a Dream” speech – in Chinese.
This was the time to connect the dots of history; this was “the teachable moment.” The brief conversation sent me on a search for resources that would not only verify but illustrate my personal memories of Dr. King and of a time long past and surely beyond the lived reality of most Americans. The stories of that era have never been more relevant.
Aware of the media preferences of a first-grader, I started with digital options. Though back-in-the-day technology was not up to 21st Century standards the resources I found offered an historic record sufficient to augment the memory and generate discussion.
- An obvious starting point was a quick search of YouTube which literally puts a face on the players – the leaders, the followers who embraced the vision, the reality of the resistance they faced — https://www.google.com/search?client=safari&rls=en&q=you+tube+martin+luther+king&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&gws_rd=ssl. And there was much more, including
- A mini-biography to set the stage — https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3ank52Zi_S0
- A simple article with great photos, aimed at kids — http://kids.nationalgeographic.com/explore/history/martin-luther-king-jr/
- The audio of the “I have a dream” speech https://ia600402.us.archive.org/29/items/MLKDream/MLKDream_64kb.mp3 –
- The text of “I have a dream” http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/mlkihaveadream.htm
These quick references are just the tip of the digital iceberg. Each will lead to many more resources that amplify the message. The learning lies in the quest itself.
So, if the arctic temps hamper mobility those who actually remember MLK and the Movement may be well-advised to stay home, explore the resources, and think about or start a conversation with friends and family members too young to envision the reality of an era – or the relevance to what’s happening today.
Still, intrepid Minnesotans will undoubtedly brave the elements to celebrate the life and legacy of MLK. Some will be at the Ordway Center bright and early Monday morning. (htpps://www.facebook.com/mnmlkholiday) Others are on the invitation list for the traditional MLK Holiday Breakfast sponsored by General Mills Foundation and the United Negro College Fund at the Minneapolis Convention Center. (http://www.mlkbreakfast.com) And for the armchair celebrants, the latter event will be broadcast live (8:00 a.m.) and rebroadcast at 8:00 PM on TPT.
Throughout the community there are several MLK day events scheduled at churches, colleges and other public sites. The MN Department of Human Rights has published a helpful list with details on several of these activities (http://mn.gov/mdhr/public_affairs/events_mlk2016.html )
Still, many offices, stories and other institutions remain open – people not only have to work, they have to get to work, so buses and trains are running. Many folks will have daytime obligations or choose to learn on their own. Bus riders and armchair learners have access to hundreds of great – and some not so great – books written about MLK and the Civil Rights Movement. The written word conveys not only facts, but depth, interpretation, nuance to a life and a movement marked by complexity, observed and recorded from diverse perspectives. Libraries and bookstores feature great displays of decades of research and analysis for MLK Day and anytime. For the bibliographically overwhelmed the King Center in Atlanta has produced a useful annotated listing of books by and about Dr. King and the Movement. http://www.thekingcenter.org/books-bibliography
With sincere wishes that MLK is more than “happy” – that it is a special day filled with learning, listening and sharing the legacy of Dr. King and the Dream that shaped the Civil Rights Movement and paved the way for the 21st Century challenges we are called upon to recognize, understand and face with wisdom based on our knowledge of the legacy of those who have gone before.