Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Commemorating Dr. King

Each year, the Museum presents a day of special programming to commemorate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Families see a powerful performance reenacting moments from the Civil Rights movement, explore a display about 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 inspired reflection and thought-provoking moments and conversations, shared by the Museum’s AmeriCorps members:
  • A mother was intrigued by the anti-discrimination activity and explained that today’s rules said that, rather than use the open green bathroom, they had to wait for the red one. The younger boy, about 3, wanted no part of waiting, but her older son (6 or 7) explained that, “Even though you might be sad now that we have to wait, we are only red for one day.” Mom said, “Yes, thanks to people like Dr. King, anyone can use any bathroom on any day like it should be.”
  • After the performance, parents sat and talked to their children about what they remembered about Dr. King. One family talked about their grandmother’s own experiences with segregation on a bus. An older man talked to a young father about a friend he knew who went to jail for his work in the Civil Rights Movement. 
  • A little boy said he knows that MLK practiced nonviolence. Janice said she was alive when MLK was alive. The boy’s face changed. He is biracial. He said, “Discrimination means Mommy and Daddy couldn’t be married.” 
  • A family ran into friends after a performance of “M.L.K.: Amazing Grace.” One family was African American and the other white. The grandmother in the white family said, “I remember all of that. People in Providence were very angry when Dr. King was killed. People were angry everywhere.” The father of the black family was moved by the performance and said he remembered his best friend’s father, a white man, bailed him out of jail. There was a thoughtful silence while they watched their children play together. 

And some comments from visitors – kids and adults – in response to the question, “What will you do to fight racial discrimination?”:

"I think I'll do everything mom tells me to do."

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