Kindness: It’s What’s For Breakfast

Martin Luther King, Jr. 1929-1968

Martin Luther King, Jr. 1929-1968

by Just Add Kids Founder, Paula Herrmann  

Nineteen sixty-four marks a year of historical importance. Dare I disclose, it’s the year of my birth. If you do the math, you know what milestone birthday I will be celebrating in 2014. But more importantly, 1964 is the year that congress passed the Civil Rights Act.

I am not much of a history buff, due in part, to a lack of interest. Yah, slap me! Though it seems the older I get, the more interested I get.  As a resource for you parents, and for myself as a mom, perhaps it’s time to put those “what’s all the hubbub about MLK day, anyway?” panties on and re-educate myself. I mean, I know I had to have learned about it in elementary school, right? And the fact that this day, the third month of January, is an annual federal holiday must mean it’s of historical, and more importantly, societal significance. Right? So here goes, JAK’s MLK 101  Read more in JAK Chat…

So, I’m going to cheat a bit. Because sometimes, other resources can tell the story better with visuals and with fewer words. Here is a great video that you and your children (as will be mine) can view to learn more as to why they get Monday off of school. (I say that knowing it’s not the case at all schools/districts).

So, besides finding childcare, having the day off from work yourself, or just another day in the life of…does the life and achievements of Martin Luther King Jr. deserve more of your  attention (and mine, too)?

While it’s been 28 years since this relatively new federal holiday was enacted, there are few long standing traditions. During these past few years of Just Add Kids’ existence, year after year, we’ve plugged different southeastern Wisconsin events related to MLK Day. There aren’t a ton of them, at the same time our community of Kenosha is a hotbed of collaboration bringing the virtue of “kindness” to the forefront. It is simply called “Kindness Week” and it annually coincides, perhaps was inspired by Martin Luther King/Martin Luther King Day.

In its 18th year, as described on Kenosha Community Foundation, one of the event sponsor’s Facebook event page, “Kindness Week was launched in 1997 by the late Rev. Olen Arrington Jr. and his congregation at Kenosha’s Second Baptist Church”. “Presently, the weeklong series of events is sponsored by the Coalition for Dismantling  Racism – a group of volunteers from across the Kenosha community. Kindness Week includes many community activities and also engages students in the Kenosha Unified School District in learning about tolerance, diversity, and community connections.”  Just Add Kids has listed, and prefaced those events “Kenosha Kindness Week” on our website’s calendar. Traditionally, the weeklong celebration kicks off with the Community Unity Breakfast Celebration at Bradford High School this Saturday morning, January 18th, and wraps up with the Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Program which includes dinner at the United Auto Workers Union Local #72 Headquarters next Saturday, January 25th.  Yay! Kenosha for your robust endeavor!

Others see it as a day to promote equal rights for all Americans, regardless of their background. Some educational establishments mark the day by teaching their pupils or students about the work of Martin Luther King and the struggle against racial segregation and racism. More recently, there seems to be a movement to encourage Americans to give some of their time on this day as volunteers in citizen action groups, as evident with the Milwaukee YMCA’s sponsored day of service, this Monday, making the holiday a day “on” instead of a day “off”.

The “legal” right to equality for all regardless of  race, color, religion, sex or national didn’t come easy.  And we as a society today, it seems, still have got to be reminded of that, just by the very existence of the organization mentioned above (Coalition for Dismantling Racism). Strange in a way, wouldn’t you say?

I can’t imagine living in a time when black and white people had to use separate bathrooms, go to different schools, sit in designated areas on a bus set apart from each other. Now again, this was the norm in the U.S. just right before I was born. I had challenged myself to delve deeper into Martin Luther King Jr. and the reason for this upcoming holiday in part to have a relevant subject and content for JAK’s weekly blog post. And now, I think it’s important to take time with my kids at the dinner (or breakfast!) table to dialog about it. Knowing my kids, I probably have underestimated what they know. I’ll ask them what they’ve talked about in school regarding Martin Luther King, Jr. and civil rights. And quite honestly, I am interested in knowing more. (I am going to listen to his famous “I Have a Dream” speech in it’s entirety).

Reading and writing are, no doubt, important. Yet, the way we treat each other defines who we are as individuals. I have a dream to raise kind, respectful, loving, compassionate, courageous kids. And my goal is to instill a personal moral compass in each child that motivates them to behave with honor and to care for others.  I too, like Martin Luther King will press hard.


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