Our next holiday honors your Mommy’s favorite person in all of human history, Martin Luther King, Jr. The holiday is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and our book is I Am Martin Luther King, Jr. by Brad Meltzer. He is the man who fought for the freedom and rights of black people in the Civil Rights movement in the 1960’s, and he is very special because of the methods he used to achieve his dream of having black and white people live together as equals.
As a child, Martin loved books and he told himself that one day he would use big words and do big things. Did he ever! One day, young Martin’s friend says he can no longer play with Martin because he is white and Martin is black. Martin is so angry, but his parents tell him not to hate his friend for hurting him, but to love him. It is better to have more love in your life, than hate and never feel he is less than anyone else.
As Martin grows up in the South he grows increasingly angry by the unjust treatment of his fellow black people; however, in college he reads widely and comes to learn all about non-violent resistance. This means that instead of using violence to get what we want, a far better way is to use peace and love. He remembers what he learned as a child and becomes even more determined to share this with the world.
When a black woman named Rosa Parks refuses to give up her seat on the bus to a white person, she gets arrested. Martin knows this is his time to get involved. His friends say, “This won’t be easy.” he replies, “We don’t do what’s easy, we do what’s right.” You see, Elena, Martin felt very deep inside of him that separating blacks and whites because of the color of their skin was wrong.
Martin urges all black people to boycott the buses so that the buses go out of business for lack of money from black patrons. Thousands of people responded and didn’t ride buses. Martin is even thrown in jail, but he continues to fight peacefully. He writes letters telling black people not to give in and to continue not to ride the bus. They listened and did this for a year. Many had to walk for miles to get where they needed to go.
Guess what? It worked, and the bus companies changed their rules. Slowly black people came to realize that peaceful protest works and they organized against other forms of segregation. Children became involved too, some not much older than you, Elena. First there were 1000 children which gradually became 2500. They were even attacked with water hoses and dogs. As people saw this on television they became enraged and demanded change. 90 days later, the rules began to change and blacks became allowed to do exactly as whites the same as white people. By the summer of 1963 an estimated 1 million Americans, of all ethnicities and races held protests in cities across the country. This is known as the Civil Rights Movement, the fight for the rights of all men to be united as one brotherhood of man.
Next, he fought for the vote for black people. On August 28, 1963 in Washington D.C. he used those big words he talked about as a child and gave his famous I Have a Dream speech to inspire that the vote be given to blacks. People marched for two days, all people from every culture, standing together to fight for freedom. You know what? Humanity won! Finally the right of Blacks to vote was signed into law.
Martin Luther King fought for the rights of all people, not just whites and blacks. He believes with all his heart that when someone shows you hate, you show them love. When someone shows you violence, you show them kindness. No matter the struggle, if we stand together and remain united, nothing can stop our dream.
So, why is Martin Luther King Jr. your Mommy’s greatest hero? He saw that all people are equal and your Mommy sincerely believes that every human being is equal no matter what they look like, or how much or how little they have, or what they do in society. Your Mommy believes that every person is worthy of our consideration. I find Martin Luther King to have a most beautiful heart and soul, and I admire him so much for having the courage to do something difficult.
You see, Elena, your Mommy knows what it’s like to be discriminated against because we are Jewish and Jews have also been treated unfairly. The hate that people feel towards others for being different is called bigotry, the ugliest part of human history and the foundation for evil in this world. Bigotry can affect every type of person as there are hundreds of different types of people in the world. I hope you will follow Mommy’s example and not feel differently about a person because they may be different from you. They, too, may have a beautiful and kind heart like yours. Humans are all different and to deny that is to diminish part of what makes us human. Differences are the things we should cherish in one another, because that is truly what makes life worth living. Rather than divide us, we need to always work hard to celebrate our differences, and not be afraid.
Happy Martin Luther King Day! Let freedom ring!
Love Always, Mommy