I do believe this will be a rare short post from me, but it is a subject that has been burning within me for some time. There are so many issues hanging over our heads these days. Many of these are ones that I can not really address in my current location, because the perspective would not be fully appreciated for what it may be. Anyway, off we go.
I posed a question on Twitter the other day which garnered no responses; not that I really expected any. It was just a random quibble, or maybe more so a query. I tweeted, “What would MLK, Jr have to say about MLKJr day if he were still alive? I posed the question because many school districts continued to have school. Honestly, since we moved to Missouri, even as a Federally mandated holiday, mostly it is business as usual. It used to bother me, especially when things used to really shut down in Mississippi. As I have gotten older, I think that I am beginning to mature a little bit. So if I may, I would like to answer my own question.
I believe that Dr. King would look at his holiday as no reason to be out of school. Education was one of his hallmarks. If anything, he might urge teachers to teach even harder on “his” holiday, because education holds the key to righting many of the wrongs that are daily perpetrated by man against man. If only we “knew” the truth behind the facts that we think we know, we may finally be able to make some leeway in the fight to establish true equality. On Dr. King’s actual birthday, I showed my students the famous “I Have a Dream” Speech, and had them answer some introspective questions about what the speech means to them today, as a newer generation. I also asked them whether we should have MLKJr day off as a vacation.
Now, I teach 8th graders. These are children in the midst of violent changes in their psychology, physiology, and mental capacities, but the responses I received really gave me hope. One student wrote,”I don’t know much about Dr. King, but it just doesn’t seem right for us to be sitting at home when I feel like Dr. King never took a break in fighting for others.” Another wrote, “Dr. King’s dream was not simply about rights for black people. I never knew that. He was fighting just as hard for kids from the wrong side of the tracks,or kids who grew up in poverty. I’m really inspired.” To balance this out, I did receive answers full of inbred bigotry, but for the most part, these kids, in the middle of the US, seemed to grasp something that many have forgotten. Dr. King would not approve of us waking up at 9 o’clock and barbecuing in the name of his birthday celebration. That is an affront to his life. He lived his life so that inequality could be brought to light, and advocacy could take place in a responsible forum, among minds who are open and willing to consider that their side is not always the right side. Education should be focused on creating people of this ilk.
This is why, to me and so many others around the world, MLKJr day is a day to get up early and work harder. it is a day reflect on how our passions are making our communities better. It’s not a day to sit around and watch shows on VH1 that depict us in a negative light. (And don’t get me started on the African American response to VH1.) It is a day for me to pull aside the at-risk student and speak more life into them than ever before. We need to work harder. Instead of merely talking about the dream, we need to be about the business of taking his dream, translating it into our own dreams, and then building a world of dreamers who are tired of sleeping on the very issues that are ruining what should be a world full of promise and ingenuity.
If Dr. King were alive today, I think that he would be well pleased with a response like this.
Where are the dreamers?