Parent’s Notebook: Reflections on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Holiday
On April 4, 1968 Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated after years of leading the battle nationwide for the end of segregation and equal rights for Black people. Then on April 8, 1968 Representative Conyers submitted legislation to have Dr. King’s birthday designated a national holiday. In 1970, six million people signed a petition to have Dr. King’s birthday a national birthday. Finally on November 2, 1983 President Ronald Reagan signed the law making January 20th a national holiday, 15 years after the initial submission by Rep Conyers and Jan. 20, 1986 marked the first celebration of the national MLK holiday. While definitely a major accomplishment, it’s also a lesson in the time it takes legislation to pass through a government that is not unified in concern and aspirations for human beings. So, considering the statistics from the Children’s Defense Fund on fatal and nonfatal firearm injury (OTP Jan 17-23, 2013) citing 5,740 children and teens were killed by gun, many of those children died during the years preceding the holiday and continue to this day. This is only stated to remind us that while organizing and participating in political organizing is important, we must remember that human life and especially that of Black youth has not ranked high in importance. It is up to us as communities to take on the challenge of healing our young so that they see the possibility of living a purposeful life and resolving differences. In order to do that we, adults, must confront our differences and heal our emotional wounds because what we see is what we’ve allowed.
Many artists have recorded songs and poetry that captured the spirit and energy youth bring to the planet. It’s time we pay attention and create ways to turn this around. Your action is your choice, but action is a must. One problem among adults is that we tend to insist that everyone join our organization or else they are branded in someone. “Children learn what they live.” Check the poem and see if any apply. The truth is we adults are always teaching and the behavior of our youth is an indication of how they’re interpreting the lessons.
Among the artists the song “Harvest for the World” by the Isley Brothers (1976), Michael Jackson’s “Heal the World” and “We are the World”’and others remind us of the important role we play as parents and community in shaping young people’s view of themselves and others and the truth is we are all endangered if we don’t change and I’m convinced that the core cause of malfunctioning in our communities is our departure from Africa’s highest-held value – that of relationships with each other.
What’s our relationship with our neighbors who live on our blocks, may not attend our church or share our social or other interests but by sharing a block means sharing mail delivery, sanitation, safety and others. Putting a halt to gossip and creating a project that supports the growth of youth while helping them to form positive relationships and alliances is the goal.
While we examine and choose the role we pledge to play, share it with us because while we live in different neighborhoods, are employed in different occupations, have different tastes in many areas, this is an opportunity to contribute to a worthy cause…..saving our children and giving them the nurturing they need. Rest-assured, they will remember.
Speaking of artists who have contributed themes for youth, nine-year-old fourth-grader Amor Lilman was featured doing two RAP presentations at the Central Brooklyn Martin Luther King Commission’s annual program of acknowledging Elementary, Middle and High School students in “Living the Dream” Essay, Poetry and Art contests. Amor’s final RAP was “Stop the Violence” which he completed after the Sandy Hook massacre. He has two tunes on YouTube, the other “Pull the pants up”. Invite a youngster, yours or another and find Amor. Remember to share ideas and results with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.