Today, I am sharing with you more of a personal story. It is a story about a teacher who brought Martin Luther King, Jr.’s legacy into a class full of white, affluent children and how his legacy touched the heart of one little girl.
As we approach Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, it is important to remember his dream, to challenge ourselves to learn about not only what he did, but also the injustices that still happen today and to become a part of it.
A Young Girl 20 Years Ago
When a young girl named Mary was in fourth grade, she was required by her teacher at her public school to perform on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. She remembers it today like it was yesterday although it was over 20 years ago.
Mary was taught sign language by her teacher. She signed and sang Martin Luther King, Jr’s. speech, I Have a Dream, in song version along with her class.
It was one of the moments when everyone in the audience and all the children all came together for one purpose – to remember, to learn, and to become a part of something special.
It was a moment to remember what Martin Luther King, Jr. had done for this country. It was a time to remember the real life battles he and others had faced during that time.
It was a time to learn about not only what he did, but also the prejudices and racial problems that are still happening today.
It was the time to become a part of the movement. While class had maybe one maybe two African American students out of the 24, the teacher invited the children to become a part of something bigger than themselves.
Afterwards, Mary reflected on what her teacher had told her. As they were preparing for this performance, her teacher, who was African American said, “If I pulled back the skin of my arm,” and paused. Then she turned to Mary and continued with, “and I pulled back the skin of yours, what would be different?” Then her teacher repeated these words,
“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”
Mary grew up to become a Social Worker. The impression that her teacher had made on her went farther than learning to read and write. That teacher inspired her students to look outside themselves and their lives.
Injustices Still Happen Today
There are many injustices still happening today. Martin Luther King, Jr. did amazing work. His work was a catalyst – moving us in the right direction.
One injustice I have seen, is that the State of Michigan is not providing the poor with adequate legal representation.
Back in June of 2012, I shared with you a breaking news article about a man who was convicted for a crime he never committed. In fact, he served 35 years for that crime – someone else’s crime.
Edward Carter was unable to afford a lawyer, so he was assigned one. Instead of his lawyer advocating his innocence, the lawyer, only meeting with Carter two times before the trial and convinced him to take a plea deal.
Thirty-five years later, Carter proved his innocence by demonstrating that he was in custody at the time the crime was committed.
Unfortunately, we see situations like Mr. Carter’s over and over.
On January 19, 2015, let us remember, learn, and become a part of the fight against injustice.
* Some names and identifying details have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals.