Is Phoenix Doing Enough to Honor and Celebrate Martin Luther King?
|King at a Civil Rights March on Washington, D.C.|
Instead we found a bunch of ill-conceived booths sparsely set up, having little or nothing to do with Dr. King. For the kids there was a group of sad bouncy houses in the corner of the park, and there was a stage for viewing awful hip hop/dance performances. But at no time, shockingly, was there any real mention of why we were all gathered in this place; we left the park feeling gypped. On the way home my daughter cried, "Was that it?" So I took out my iPhone, did some research, found another celebration in Mesa, and we journeyed east.
The celebration in Mesa was a little bit better (not much). They, too, had booths set up selling bad Bob Marley printed t-shirts and funky incense. There were food trucks serving things like funnel cake and Indian fry bread. Up and coming young artists were featured on center stage doing off-key performances of bad pop music. Yet again we left feeling empty, having provided our children with no additional insight into the meaning of the day.
It would be great if Phoenix could provide more substantive, big city options. Growing up in New York City I was privileged to attend a school, Manhattan Country School, where civil rights was at the forefront of our learning experience. Every year, the school holds a MLK march with a civil rights inspired theme. Students do a short march in the city and during the march they stop at special points of interest to deliver speeches that they have written about today's civil rights issues.
This year's march is titled, "In 25 Years: Reflecting on the Civil Rights Struggles of the Past, Looking toward Justice for Tomorrow." It would be great if a local school in the area could sponsor such an event.
So rather than be disappointed again, this year we have decided to put the events of MLK Days past behind us and we will be hosting an MLK Day brunch at our house. There will be special activities for the kids, grown folks' beverages for the adults, and we will sit around and listen to Martin Luther King Jr.'s famous speeches; in our way we will try to keep his memory alive.
Despite living in Arizona, we feel confident that our children will know who Dr. King is, because that's how we roll, but I worry for my kids' friends. Will their parents also take an active role in their children's civil rights education? Will they have any idea why they have the day off from school?
If they attend any of the limited events around town, will that bring them any additional insight? And then another part of me just thinks DAMNNNN, it's 2013, why can't Arizona do better? It saddens me that to educate our children we have to generate a separate celebration in our home, when in reality Dr. King's message is a profound one that really should be shared with the masses.