If he hadn’t been assassinated in Memphis in 1968, Martin Luther King, Jr. might have lived to be 86 this year. And despite the victories of the movement King led, the issues of justice and peace he fought for are still with us. Apart from watching the film Selma—which as Tina Fey joked “is about the American civil rights movement that totally worked and now everything’s fine”—what are some concrete ways to talk with kids about King and his legacy, not just on Martin Luther King Day, but in ongoing conversations?
Clayborne Carson, founding director of the King Institute, professor of history at Stanford University, and author of Martin’s Dream, suggests parents look at King’s childhood. The civil rights leader clearly describes the injustice he suffered in his autobiography: “For a long, long time I could not go swimming, until there was Negro YMCA. A Negro child in Atlanta could not go to any public park. I could not go to the so-called white schools. In many of the stores downtown, I couldn’t go to a lunch counter to buy a hamburger or a cup of coffee. … I remember seeing the Klan actually beat a Negro. I had passed spots where Negroes had been savagely lynched. All these things did something to my growing personality.”
“The question must be asked: Why is there so much distrust in the police and the legal system from the African American community? Without manifesting what the effects of slavery still have today, Dec 1st still marks only 59 years since Rosa Parks sat on that memorable bus. Many of our parents and grandparents have lived through those times and have passed those stories on to all of us. Those civil rights changes were at one time the law! They were not illegal.
So did the protection of the law by the courts and police make it right? Obviously not, so as African Americans we still know and feel that there are laws and jurisdictions that severely penalize the poor and, most importantly, African Americans greater than any other group. Some laws were initially made without us as equals in mind; that’s just the facts. So the thought process that it’s not for us or by us will unfortunately lead to distrust.”
Smith addressed Barkley’s remarks in an open letter submitted exclusively to For The Win. The letter is featured below in its entirety:
I hope this finds you in the way I always see you, in great spirits, with great joy and full of life. There are some things I want to openly say to you that sometimes in conversation get lost.
Firstly I lied! You ARE the greatest Power Forward of all time. It’s not (Tim) Duncan or (Karl) Malone, they had size and height that you weren’t blessed with and you never had near the talent around you that they were blessed to have. Contrarily you took your…
Come on come on I see no changes. Wake up in the morning and I ask myself, “Is life worth living? Should I blast myself?” I’m tired of bein’ poor and even worse I’m black. My stomach hurts, so I’m lookin’ for a purse to…
When your legs don’t work like they used to before And I can’t sweep you off of your feet Will your mouth still remember the taste of my love? Will your eyes still smile from your cheeks? And, darling, I will be loving you ’til…