I love celebrating Martin Luther King Day with my kids because it offers so much inspiration for good conversation. Who was Dr. King? What are civil rights? Do you understand what a sit-in means? Did you know that African Americans couldn’t vote in the United States until 1965?
We’ve taken our children to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial in Washington, D.C., have stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial where Dr. King delivered his I Have a Dream speech, and are waiting anxiously for a family visit to the African American History Museum in our nation’s capital next month. Because of the events in Charlottesville on August 12th, Graham and I believe it is more important than ever to talk with our kids about inequality, civil rights, and respect for all people.
After reading my friend’s Mary’s essay, Love in the Aftermath of Charlottesville, I was challenged to say and DO more to show my children how our family values diversity. Visiting museums and memorials brings knowledge, but we needed to know how to put that into practice in everyday life. We started with our library cards.
My crew headed off to the library checking out books like Ron’s Big Mission, Last Stop on Market Street, and Lillian’s Right to Vote. We wanted books that not only shared the black experience but also made African Americans the main character, so we checked out Ezra Jack Keats’ The Snowy Day, a Caldecott Medal winner that broke the color barrier in children’s publishing in 1962.
We’ve also evaluated the shows our kids watch and the dolls they play with: do the children on the television and the loveys on the bed look just like my children or are they more representative of our diverse nation? (Gang, nothing says homogenous like the Truly Me dolls at the American Girl store but I digress). Moreover, do their school, sports, and church playmates reflect the diversity we value, and, if not, how might we encourage more of that? Tip of the day: it probably has something to do with modeling it ourselves.
Like all of us, my family is a work in progress. We often live comfortably in our own bubble without much desire to go beyond it. But if my children are to learn lessons of heritage, culture, equality, and the value of diversity, it must begin at home.