This year, I feel even more connected to the significance of this day.
This year, our boys will not only read their books about civil rights, but really understand more about how far we have come.
This year, we can say we were there.
It was during our road trip this summer, that we actually got to stand in the spot where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. addressed the crowds at the March on Washington, in August of 1963. There was a tile in the steps leading up to the Lincoln Memorial, inscribed with the details from that famous speech. It was such an emotional moment to be in standing, with my black husband and beautiful biracial children in the exact position in which the history was made. I stood on the tile and looked over the fountains. The very same view that MLK had that day. It was powerful, emotional and something I will never forget.
While, Martin Luther King Day is not really celebrated in Canada, it is definitely recognized in our house. We even have decorations that I bring out every year. They consist of paper dolls holding hands, made from many shades of construction paper. I also have printed activities to do when the boys get home and our Black History books are waiting for another read about the laws that existed before we were born.
Our boys know that this is the day when we recognize one of the most significant figures in the fight for equality among Blacks and Whites. As you might assume, we often discuss skin colour in our house. Our boys see themselves as “brown”, a perfect combination of both their dad and of me. They also know, that according to the old laws, they would have been seen as “coloured” and not white, like their mommy. When we talk about race and history, it is a difficult subject for them to relate to. Thankfully, they haven’t experienced prejudice and segregation. One way, we have tried to relate these experiences to our boys, is to explain that part of MLK’s dream was that brown children could attend the same schools as their white friends and drink from the same fountains. Even at four years old, Jayden can understand that he and his buddy Austin would not have been able to be in school together.
While on vacation, we also had the chance to see the most spectacular exhibits on slavery and on RACE at the Smithsonian in Washington. Seeing the displays and reading the old laws relating to race, made such a powerful impact on both our children and on us. Ty was amazed to see the actual signs from “Whites Only” swimming pools and read the laws that existed long before his time. He couldn’t believe that a white woman could have been thrown in prison for having a child with a man of colour! My sons learned that day, that their parents would not have been legally able to be married and could have been put in jail for falling in love! What a lesson to learn about how far we have come!
Take some time today to start the discussion on race and civil rights, in your home. If you haven’t already, tell your children who Martin Luther King Jr. was and what his role has meant in THEIR lives and in the lives of their friends.
Starting the dialogue with your kids is a great way to help perpetuate the Dream of tolerance and freedom for all children..