Sunday, January 20, 2013

Celebrating Martin Luther King and Black History all year!

Happy Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday! We have several excellent and unusual picture book biographies available in the library related to Martin Luther King and Civil Rights, suitable across the grade levels. A few favorites:

HARVESTING HOPE:  THE STORY OF CESAR CHAVEZ by Kathleen Krull, about the leader of migrant workers in California who led the protest march that inspired King;

DELIVERING JUSTICE:  W.W. LAW AND THE FIGHT FOR CIVIL RIGHTS by Jim Haskins, about the postman who led the Great Savannah Boycott, an ordinary person making an extraordinary difference;

CORETTA SCOTT by Ntozake Shange, a beautifully illustrated free-verse biography in tribute to Kings' wife;

MARTIN'S BIG WORDS:  THE LIFE OF DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING,  JR. by Doreen Rappaport, a biography with King's quotations strewn throughout;

THROUGH MY EYES by Ruby Bridges, a little more text-heavy but with amazing photographs that documents the reasons we are all here at school together!

TESTING THE ICE by Jackie Robinson's daughter, Sharon Robinson, and illustrated by the great Kadir Nelson, sharing a real-life anecdote that embodies Jackie Robinson's bravery and willingness to break new ground (if not new ice).  Did you know Jackie Robinson's birthday is January 31st?

We will have plenty of books on display throughout Black History Month, but I think it is also worthwhile to remember that African-American history is American history, and these great stories and stories that represent all the races, ethnicities and cultures represented in our school and our country deserve to be explored all year long.

I know that on Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday, everyone remembers his great "I Have a Dream" speech.  But I think my favorite speech by King is "What Is Your Life's Blueprint?" delivered to students at Barratt Junior High School in Philadelphia about six months before his assassination.  In the speech, he  said:
If it falls your lot to be a street sweeper, sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures, sweep streets like Beethoven composed music, sweep streets like Leontyne Price sings before the Metropolitan Opera. Sweep streets like Shakespeare wrote poetry. Sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will have to pause and say: Here lived a great street sweeper who swept his job well.
I think this is such a relevant quote for our times, and speaks to so much about education today.  I don't think he is saying everyone should be a garbage man, or that he does not value the education that opens doors to other professions.  I think he is saying, however it goes, don't be elitist and look down your nose at what is another kind of work; we need garbage men, there is pride in being a garbage man, there is value in EVERY man and every man has a gift to give through the hard work he does, whatever that work may be.   Whatever you do your best at, we need it! What a great American sentiment!  I believe that King felt everyone could make a meaningful contribution to our country.  And your children's teachers believe it, too, beyond any test scores or grades or acceptance letters to prestigious schools.   

Happy Birthday, MLK!

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