“I have a dream.” Eleven letters. Four words. One simple, profoundly moving sentence that served as a passionate rallying call for equality, dignity and true freedom.
This past week our nation stopped to remember and honor the man who shared his dream more than fifty years ago in the shadow of the Lincoln Memorial.
The Reverend Martin Luther King, Junior. Born in Atlanta, Georgia, on January 15, 1929, he dedicated his life to bringing racial and social justice through peaceful means. His heart was centered in transforming the world to be a better place for everyone – everyone, as evidenced by him being awarded the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize.
This year marks the forty-seventh year since his assassination. I, for one, remember that day vividly. I was on the cusp of adolescence, more than ready to be an adult, very ready to help make the world a better place. His brutal death shocked me to my core, and I remember wondering how we would ever recover from such a loss. I’m not sure we have.
We don’t have to look far to realize some changes have occurred and more changes are needed. We have an African-American president and his family in the White House. Our nation’s highest court has both male and female members, including an African-American justice. Some changes have occurred. Headlines and lead stories include events in Ferguson, Missouri, as well as marches in New York City and elsewhere with people holding signs saying “I Can’t Breathe.” More changes are needed.
I want a better world for our children and grandchildren, don’t you? I want them to live the dream of the man who said, “Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy.” It is time. It is not too late to come together, to work and dream and make it happen.
Until we as individuals and a nation fully embrace the truth of the past and the multi-faceted realities of the present, the future, to me, doesn’t look too dream-like. So how do we as individuals, members of communities and citizens of this great country truly work for needed changes and better understanding? I don’t pretend to have all the answers, but I have some suggestions. As a Children’s Librarian, my first suggestion is to bring together young people and books.
Let’s get involved with our young people – from the earliest ages on up – let’s not only talk with them – let’s also listen to their innate wisdom. Lest we adults forget, no child is born with prejudice. Prejudice of all kinds is learned behavior, and it is learned from us “big folks.”
Let’s put children’s books front and center in our efforts. The stories can support us in having meaningful conversations - no matter how uncomfortable or difficult that might be.
So, if you are ready to read, talk, dream and listen, be sure to stop by the library and pick up an array of titles to support your efforts. There is no shortage of beautiful, moving and informative children’s books about the Civil Rights Movement. To get you started I would suggest “The Cart That Carried Martin” by Eve Bunting, “Freedom Riders” by Ann Bausum, “My Brother Martin” by Christine King Farris and “The Story of Ruby Bridges” by Robert Coles. Each is powerful, heart wrenching and an impetus for change.
I have a dream. I hope you do too!