Remembering Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Cheryl Brown's picture

Who cares?

Jennifer Yanco, author of Misremembering Dr. King approached the subject of who really cares about remembering Dr. King from an interesting perspective by sharing a diagram of Dr. Kings approval rating in 1964 compared to today. Oddly enough, despite his approval rating being very low 2% in 1964, 98% of the population were keenly aware and knowledgeable of his message and his mission as opposed to today where his approval rating is 98% but less than 2% know of major issues that were the impetus behind the civil rights movement.

Fielding feedback from an audience at her latest book signing, Jennifer Yanco randomly queried three young school teachers as to what they knew of Dr. King. As suspected, the young educators expressed that they knew very little or nothing about Dr. King. Seana Whittaker, Emma Graff and Serena Chang, all educators at Peabody Terrace Children's Center each shared stories of attending predominantly white schools that rarely if ever mentioned anything about African-American history. Nor was there discussion in their home or predominantly white communities. Each expressed that the Dr.Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday was merely a day off of school or work. However despite, their past experience they were very intentional and proactive about learning about Dr. King because each of them now were responsible for educating a culturally diverse population of students. Serena Chang spoke of the importance of not perpetuating the notion of being "colorblind" as that may lead to "whitewashing" a society into believing that we all must be the same in order to be accepted. She believes that we are all different, and that concept should not only be accepted but celebrated. Seana Whittaker and Emma Graff spoke of the importance of teaching children agency through fair play and empowerment by guiding students in problem solving at an early age.

Subjects of weightier matters were also discussed such as how to handle the backlash from earlier civil rights movements, what can be done about injustice, inequality, micro-inequities, mass incarceration, profiling and stopping the murder of unarmed citizens. However, the session ended resting on the sentiments of the three young educators that unless we educate ourselves and work together, we will not know what to teach the children.

In remembering Dr. King, the question of who cares, is valid if we consider only current statistics But if we consider that millions of others around the world are working to change that statistic by educating themselves, then there will be less misremembering.

Children are resilient, eager to learn, and have a keen sense of right and wrong. If we could only access the basics of what we know is truth, starting with treating others as we want to be treated, then we may be eager to learn more about Dr. King's message of peace, that it was not of passivity but of passion and empowerment to fight against excessive militarization, materialism, and racism. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. has often been referred to as a drum major for peace. Even though he was a brilliant, educated man who earned the Nobel Peace Prize at an early age, he always remained humble and eager to forgive. Perhaps that peace he often spoke of was born out of learning from his mistakes, forgiving others of theirs, and having the childlike faith to begin again. "The time is always right to do what is right." - Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.


This story is produced for NeighborMedia, the citizen journalism project of CCTV. See more of what Cambridge residents are reporting at or get updates delivered straight to your news feeds by following us on Facebook and Twitter.