A Celebration of the Life and Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
January 18, 2023
By Shannon Blady PhD, LCM Chief Learning Officer
This weekend, LCM celebrated another beautiful Peace Weekend to honor the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. We always look forward to this special time of year because we know that the spirit of the performances and guest readers will move us. We recall a moment during story time last year with a book on Dr. King’s life that explained racial segregation. A child raised his hand in the middle of the story to ask special guest reader Doc Griggs a question. “This is fiction, right?” And we watched Doc Griggs’ eyes soften. He later explained how his heartstrings tugged at that moment at the innocence of a child who really hoped that the events of the past were not true.
This year, we were honored to have Doc Griggs return to read Amanda Gorman’s Change Sings: A Children’s Anthem. After a few pages of this stirring book, he paused in reading to take a moment to explain to an inquiring child what tolerance means. When we listen carefully to the voices of young children during story times, we hear their knowledge, ideas, and curiosities. This particular question gave Doc Griggs an opportunity to reinforce the message of love and community. We can also ask open-ended questions to deepen their understanding of the messages presented in the books:
- What might the world be like today if Dr. King didn’t stand up for civil rights?
- How did Dr. King encourage people to take a stand?
Our other selected books for Peace Weekend were presented on our MLK prompt table in the Atrium but were also distributed in our book nooks around the Museum. One of our award-winning books, which happens to also be our Community Kindness Project selection for the month, is Martin’s Big Words, written by Doreen Rappaport and illustrated by Bryan Collier. It is a biography sprinkled with Dr. King’s quotes throughout its beautifully illustrated pages.
The prompt that we presented for guests was What is your dream for the future? Responses were entered into a lovely LCM Peace Dove, a collaborative art project designed and created by guests and LCM educators with papier–mâché and upcycled cardboard. Our dove held in its heart the following responses:
I dream of a world where we all get along.
I dream to walk on a rainbow.
I will be nicer to my little sister.
I wish one day everyone feels welcomed and heard.
I hope that we realize how much we need each other.
and Happy Birthday, Dr. King!
Our celebration continued with a performance by Bamboula 2000’s Imagination Tour, a guided travel experience to the African Diaspora via Imagination Airlines. We danced, drummed, sang, and learned about our connections to our African ancestry and the cultures that make New Orleans the cultural mecca that it is today. After their interactive performance, the performers joined our Peace Parade, guided by a child in the audience who held our peace dove up high, as if our dreams that were placed inside were leading us into the future. The parade concluded with everyone singing Stevie Wonder’s “Happy Birthday”, a song he wrote in 1981 to remind U.S. lawmakers that Dr. King deserved to be recognized with a national holiday.
On Sunday afternoon, author, illustrator and educator Ron Grady shared his book What Does Brown Mean to You? According to Grady, “This book is written for children and families to be able to have positive conversations around skin tone, around race and ethnicity and really to celebrate the things that are best about childhood.”
We concluded the weekend with some peaceful yoga, thanks to two moms who understand the meaning of community. When our planned instructor couldn’t make it, these moms who were in the story time audience volunteered to lead peaceful yoga with our children. Completely unprompted by our education staff, they reminded the children and caregivers gathered for yoga about the love we feel for ourselves when we practice yoga, the love we feel for our friends and family, and how Dr. King’s work was all about love and community. They ended with a birthday shout out to Dr. King and his dream as the kiddos continued to practice their peaceful poses. Tugged heartstrings.
Of course, we embody Dr. King’s messages daily and have our highlighted books available all year, but we fully enjoy this special time to celebrate his life and to share his teachings of love and peace through special story times, moving performances, and meaningful community-building.
“Love is the key to the problems of the world.” -Dr. King
For more prompts and questions on Martin’s Big Words, visit our Community Kindness Project page.