Monday, January 18, 2010

Happy Martin Luther King, Jr. Day!

Merry Christmas! Happy New Year! We use glad words to celebrate most holidays, but I don’t often hear Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day. It is just a good reason to have a day off of school or work to many people.

I am a bit too young to have lived through a lot of the civil rights struggles that went on in our country. I love my country and am so grateful to live here, but I don’t understand how so many people let so many bad things happen. (Not that all is well even now.)

From the time I was born until I was in 3rd grade, I moved around a lot. Then we stayed in one city for most of my remaining childhood years—Dayton, Ohio. I didn’t know or understand at first, but learned pretty quickly, that the city was segregated. No laws, signs or police kept it segregated, but one part of the city was inhabited by white people and another part was where only African Americans (just called black people then) lived.

The city participated in busing. What is busing? Just using buses to transport your children to the closest school since they live a bit too far to walk? No. It means taking a group of children who live close to a school and assigning them to a school across town so that a group of children who live close to that school can be bused to the school near your house. Why? To try to desegregate the schools and to make sure that all students had equal resources. If all the children in the black area who lived near a school went to that school, it would be all black (and typically given less resources) and the same for the white area schools, which causes them to be segregated even though there were no rules keeping one from attending the other school if they lived in those boundaries. So it was an attempt at racial integration.
(They tore down the old school in 2008. Remember playing in that corner where we'd run up the silver slopes, Sheri?)

So in 4th grade I started being bused to a different neighborhood. We would drive through a part of town that I had never been in and I couldn’t believe how run down and sad most of it looked. Boarded up windows, graffiti, and small, old homes. I have to say that the area where we lived was not affluent. We lived in probably a lower-middle class area with homes that weren’t new or big, but there was such a contrast to these two areas of town.

I had a birthday party in 4th grade and invited some of my friends from school. One of my friends who came happened to be black. I don’t remember any of the fun games we played or even the yummy cake (thanks to my bad memory), but I do remember one comment from my black friend. “This is the first time I have ever been in a house in the white part of town. I have never even been invited to a white person’s birthday party before.” My little kid mind could not comprehend that. Why not? And why was that so exciting?

We did learn about Martin Luther King, Jr. and civil rights, but that all seemed like history to learn and it even seemed like so long ago to me. But living in Dayton, I had many African American teachers who would teach about him and about civil rights with passion and gratitude. They lived through all of the things we were just learning about. Those things were still affecting the country in ways I didn’t understand. I am very grateful for those teachers who taught me that the holiday is a HAPPY day, remembering good people who stood up for what was right when it was so difficult and dangerous to do. Those people made our country a better place.
If you’d like to teach your children about this holiday, here are some links with activities.

http://www.theholidayzone.com/mlk
http://www.activityvillage.co.uk/mlk_day.htm
http://home.howstuffworks.com/martin-luther-king-jr-day-crafts.htm

7 comments:

  1. Thank you for this post Valerie. To think that so many people fought for liberties that we, and I particularly, take for granted.

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  2. Great post.
    Were you raised in Utah?
    Did you saysomewhere and I missed it?

    I am grateful that we are more civil now than we used to be.. I know it's not perfect.. but we have come a LONG way.

    Even though I adore the past.. and most things that come from another era.. slavery is one thing I am grateful that I didn't have to live through...

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  3. Great and thoughtful post, Valerie. People like Martin Luther King, JR. are so amazing to me, standing up for something when the odds are not only stacked against you but you are also put at danger just for standing up. They were so brave!

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  4. Valerie, I know you wouldn't brag about it, but I distinctly remember you winning an essay contest about Martin Luther King, Jr. during National Brotherhood/Sisterhood Week when you were in fourth grade. You won for the whole county and got to read your essay at some important building in downtown Dayton. I've forgotten the name of the building. The media were there, and I only wish we'd have had a VCR at the time. We didn't have much of anything, though. Great job discussing this important holiday!

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  5. Ann Marie, I was mostly raised in Ohio, where I was bused.

    Mom, I wish I had that essay still. I remember reading it a year or two later and wondering why I won because it sure didn't seem great to me.

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  6. I listened to his speech today on the radio. It is filled with hope for the future of the blacks and it was beautifully done.
    I grew up in an area where there weren't many blacks in my school. My Dad was raised by parents who were very prejudice. I could never understand why someone would be judged by the color of their skin and not by their merits.
    Great post, Valerie

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  7. Great post. I grew up in Pocatello Idaho and never knew anyone who wasn't white. In 6th grade I was bussed to a school where there were about 5 black students. I don't think we were prejudice - it was that there were not very many to have any type of experience like the rest of the US. I never have understood the whole race thing - because it is foreign to my mind. I just have never experienced it. I have had friends of every race and color - it never made a big deal to me. So when Obama became President - I never understood why it was such a big deal (he is just a man to me) - and I still don't understand the whole reason it is still a big deal. I thought our culture was way past it.. I'm just a sheltered Idahoan.

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