Thursday, January 20, 2011

Celebrating MLK

Each year, the Museum presents a day of special programming to commemorate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Storytellers and actors Rochel Coleman and Valerie Tutson bring history to life through songs and stories in compelling performances of “M.L.K.: Amazing Grace” as they portray well-known Civil Rights activists and ordinary Americans who changed the world.
Families also explore an exhibit of photographs, words and books describing Dr. King's life and work and can choose to participate in an interactive anti-discrimination activity, during which they wear a red or green tag and encounter “red only” and “green only” labels throughout the Museum – on lunchroom tables, bathroom doors, water fountains and more. The activity and performance inspire reflection and thought-provoking conversations.

Monday day’s program was full of powerful moments and provocative comments, shared by Museum staff and AmeriCorps members:

  • I overheard a mom say to her daughter – wearing green, approaching a red fountain – “Don’t you use that, it’s red!” Girl: “But where’s a green one?” Mom: “I don’t know, maybe there isn’t one, how would that feel?” She stuck her tongue out and gave an exasperated look, “Blaahh!” I told her there is one somewhere in the Museum. She said, “It’s confusing being green.”
  • Three children who came to the Museum together all chose red signs. When asked why they chose that color one of the children said, “So we can be together.” Another child remarked, “Also we wanted to be able to drink from the water fountain upstairs and it has a RED ONLY sign.”
  • “I’m lucky enough that my friend is also green.”
  • How does discrimination feel? “Not so fun. Not fair because if people have family members that have a different color, they can’t sit together. Not fair because I can’t sit next to my little brother.”
  • A grandmother and her two grandkids. Boy, age 7: “In CCD my teacher told me the blacks had to sit in the back of the bus and the whites in the front.” Girl, age 10: “I think that he was right to stand up for all of the blacks and he was brave.” Grandmother: “She wants to do a dance performance of cultures with her dance teacher to fight racial discrimination.”
  • Conversation with a mother: She said her son is a minority in his school even though he is white and she thought it was important to teach kids acceptance at an early age. She thought it was great the Museum does this type of activity.
  • Another mom commented that it’s a spectacular event – she and her child plan ahead and have come for the last three years.
  • A boy, age 6: “MLK helped people with black skin and with white skin go to school together. I’m glad this happened.”
  • A girl, age 6, and I were looking at and talking about a book about MLK. She put her hand next to mine, looked at me and said, “Are we white? ‘Cause I really think I’m more…tan.” I replied, “Skin’s not really white or black – and what does it matter anyway?”
  • A mom shared that her 6-year-old daughter “has been feeling really sad since she learned about MLK in school. She keeps asking why someone would kill someone who only wanted to do good in the world. The performance today at the Children's Museum put it all in context. So exciting to see her mind absorbing the world...”
And some wonderful responses left on our Talk Back board, to the question, “What will you do to fight racial discrimination?”:

And what will YOU do?
Thanks to Rhode Island Council for the Humanities and Herman H. Rose for their support of this event.

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