Poetic Tongues/Fabu

Poetic Tongues

A Role Model for Children

Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was born into a family of strong Christian faith, and good family values from college educated parents who earned enough money to make them financially well-off, especially for Black people in the South in the early 1900s. Both his maternal and paternal grandfathers were Baptist preachers and Dr. King’s father succeeded his father-in-law as pastor of the well-known Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia. Rev. Dr. King grew up on a street that was home to some of the largest and most prosperous Black churches and Black businesses in the entire USA. He grew up with every benefit a Black child in segregated America could have, received a good education, and enjoyed all the advantages that were possible for a child with dark skin at that time under systematic racism.


I share specific details of his childhood because, in terms of the Black middle-class in Atlanta, his future was set to follow in the footsteps of the Baptist ministers in his family, to pastor a huge church himself, and to live a life of relative wealth and comfort. He had to decide, make a personal decision as a child, to have compassion for others less fortunate than him and to experience at an early age, that racism was an injustice that must end. He could have stayed comfortable in his cocoon of family and neighborhood and ignored the suffering of most Black people in America who were poor, uneducated, and victimized. He thoughtfully chose to become a leader who protested injustice while a pastor in Montgomery, Alabama.

Rev. Dr. King, along with many others, led a boycott to protest segregated seating on public bus transportation. Rev. Dr. King and Rosa Parks became the face of this movement that lasted over a year, but was one of the most successful, large-scale economic pushes against unfair segregation in this country. It was official, the Rev. Dr. King had become a leader in the human rights movement, termed civil rights movement, from the mid-1950’s until he was murdered in 1968.

His leadership was an important reason for the success in ending the tortuous legal segregation of African Americans. He formed the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, with others, which promoted nonviolent tactics and strategies, including being involved in the tremendous March on Washington in 1963 which originated with A. Phillip Randolph and Bayard Rustin. Everything that these leaders accomplished was all designed to achieve justice, fairness, and equal opportunities for Black people in USA. After the March on Washington, where approximately 250, 000 people attended, Rev. Dr. King was awarded the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. He was the youngest African American to win a Nobel Prize at age 35. He was assassinated at age 39, leaving to mourn a wife, three children, numerous family members and millions of supporters.

In Madison, to honor the Rev. Dr. King, The King Coalition, in partnership with the Urban League of Greater Madison, City of Madison, Dane County, MSCR, Madison Out of School Time (MOST), Madison Public Library and others invite middle school youth to attend the MLK Day Youth Call to Service on Monday, January 15th from noon to 5 pm. It is my honor to present a workshop at this event.

I consider it a privilege to invite youth to deepen their understanding of this great leader, who was once a child too. He decided to get an education when given the opportunity, but more importantly, he decided to use his education on the side of justice for others. I’d like to invite students to make a personal decision to get an education, in the field of their choice, and to let that education be used for good in this world. Everyone has leadership potential, and talking to a group of students means that I am talking to a group of future leaders. We need students to realize their potential, and to share their gift and talent like the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. did. The best way to honor him and the sacrifice of giving up his life to advance our human rights, is to answer the call to service this January 15th, on his birthday, a National Holiday, and every day.