Saturday, January 14

Martin Luther King Day...

Monday is Martin Luther King Day. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was a great civil liberties activist--this is something we all know. But a couple of years ago, when I was back at school to get my Library Technician certificate, I wrote an essay on Mrs. King, for my children's literature class.


Most Americans who have children have probably heard of the Newbery and Caldecott awards, but these aren't the only two awards out there for children's literature. So for my final paper in class, I decided to write about the lesser known awards--they may not get talked about as much but that doesn't make them any less important. The plan was simple: bring in a couple of books that had won each award that I touched on, and spend the bulk of my time discussing one award in particular--although I had no idea which one until I started doing some research. I was working in an elementary school library, so access to books wasn't an issue!

I had heard of the Coretta Scott King award; I'd just read We are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball, by Kadir Nelson (who both wrote and illustrated the book). It's a children's picture book. I happened to cross the check-out desk one day and I was immediately taken in by the illustrations, so I set it aside to read when I had a minute (it was one of those days when I had lots of minutes, and really, not many people are going to grumble about a library tech reading a book!) I wasn't at all surprised when I saw that We Are the Ship was an award winner. But what was the Coretta Scott King award about, I wondered. Of course I knew Coretta King was the wife of Martin Luther King (I didn't do that miserably in history), but beyond that, I knew absolutely nothing about the lady.

I read a couple of the books we had in our library--children's books are a great resource when you happen to be surrounded by them, anyway (and had some really good ones).  I also did some research online. I discovered that not only was Mrs. King an activist for "racial" equality (remember why it is I dislike the word "race"--there is only one race, the Human Race, but the word "race" has been used for so long, by so many people that it is difficult to get away from, even when we want to). Anyway, not only was Mrs. King an advocate and activist for "racial" and cultural equality, but she was also an advocate and activist for gender equality, for women's rights. Remember, the world was a very different place in the 50's, 60's, and even in the 70's. Sometimes I think we forget how far we've come--which isn't to say that we're done, there is a long, long, long way ahead of is when it comes to equality.

Human equality. Because when you get right down to it, there IS only one race. The Human Race. That race includes people of different genders, gender identity, sexual orientation, cultural background, religious beliefs (or lack thereof), national original... but in the end, we are all People. As people, we have the same rights: to love and be loved, to be accepted for who we are, to feel safe, to have food and shelter. And we have the same responsibilities: to love and be loved, to respect one another for who we are, to provide a safe environment for one another, and to ensure that there will always be enough natural resources on this planet so that our neighbors and our neighbors' neighbors, and our children and grandchildren and great grandchildren will always have clean air, clean water, food and shelter.

Kind of a no-brainer, don't you think?

No comments: