From Drew C. Wilson’s article, “Students learn legacy of civil rights,” in the 19 January 2020 online edition of the Wilson Times:
“Martin Luther King thought everyone should be equal,” wrote Lavender Miller, a student in Helen Williams’ first grade class.
On Friday, Lavender and other first graders were polishing second drafts of papers they wrote about King’s life.
“Martin Luther King Jr. was born on Jan. 15, 1929. He had a brother and a sister,” wrote first grader Mateo Bacas. “Martin Luther King Jr. cannot go to the movie because it said white only.”
In Mateo’s first iteration, King stood in front of a lectern with a microphone delivering his speech. In the second, more colorful version, Mateo drew King larger and with a crown on his head.
“Martin Luther King grew up to be a minister,” wrote first grader Zymir McArthur. “Some people didn’t like him. He fought against racism. He gave a speech, ‘I Have a Dream,’ in D.C. He wanted his children to be able to hold hands with white children.”
1) Mateo’s drawing #2? I’d blow it up and hang it behind my desk.
(2) Second drafts of papers — in first grade? That’s the kind of early literacy I love.
(3) These babies attend Samuel H. Vick Elementary, which has been around in one form or another long enough for my 85 year-old father to have attended. (Here’s another first grade class at Vick.) There were no white children there with which to hold hands in his day. And I’d bet there are next to none now.
(4) There are, however, many Latino children at Vick, mostly Mexican-American, and these black and brown children hold East Wilson’s future in their little hands.
(5) Martin Luther King Jr. Day post-dates my elementary and secondary education. I don’t recall him being much remarked upon in any classroom I sat in, but that was okay — I got my Black History at home.
(6) I live in Atlanta, Dr. King’s hometown. I am watching the annual commemoration of his life and legacy, broadcast live from Ebenezer Baptist Church. Today, we are often reminded, is a day on, not a day off. My service is Black Wide Awake. And I’m on.