Tuesday, January 17, 2012


January 16, 2012
Today I took a number of foreign exchange students, mostly Muslims, to an MLK event sponsored by the Minneapolis Park Board at Powderhorn Park Community Center, located in one of the most multi-cultural areas of the city. I asked them if they had ever heard of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in their native countries and what they knew about him. I also asked the students to be observant of the attendees and to see who sat with whom at the tables.

All the students had heard of Dr. King in their native countries, many had listened to his "I Have a Dream" speech and were aware of his efforts to help black people. They observed the people at the event were mostly white and that blacks tended to sit together.

The Community Center was filled with people and a free meal of fried chicken, collared greens, corn bread, rolls, rice and beans was served to the hundreds in attendance. The program consisted of an African drummer, hip-hop dancers, a folk singer, an Aztec dance group, a gospel group, and Powderhorn Park's drum corps. The performances were excellent. The only program reference to Dr. King was a question to the audience as to how old Dr. King would be today (83), answered by one older person, and for the entire audience to shout, "Happy Birthday, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr".

After the program I gathered the students to recap the event and give my thoughts on what Dr. King meant to me. I said that Dr. King's achievements were not through political office, but through non-violent means of raising people's awareness of injustices done to others and being able to organize people who shared his vision of inequality.

On my way home, it struck me that MLK Day may have become a chance for some to talk about togetherness, free food, entertainment, or a day off from school to go on a long weekend trip. As for Dr. King's "Dream", it seemed more of a dream than ever before.

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