In honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, I’m re-releasing this post from one of my all-time favorite teaching moments; enjoy… :)
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.
Since today is a national holiday, I don’t know what to expect from my after-school art class. When I walk into the room, I’m surprised at the number of kids who swarm me singing, “We want art! We want art!”
Always wanting to bring real life lessons to art I ask, “So, you guys didn’t have school today, huh? Why is that?”
“Martin Luther King Day!” they cheer in unison.
“Ah, and who is Martin Luther King?” I ask.
They become silent, looking at each other and around the room for the answer. Finally, one little girl speaks up, “I think he was a guy who’s skin was some kind of different color!” Everyone nods in agreement.
“I see,” I nod, also. “And what kind of color was his skin?” Long pause. “Like, was it purple?” Raucous laughter. They think I’m silly.
“No, his skin wasn’t purple!” calls out an eight-year-old boy. “It was kind of brownish, I think. And he broke the law so they killed him.”
“Oh, I see. Do you mean he ‘broke’ the law or he helped to ‘change’ the law?” I press for clarification.
“He helped change the law so that brownish people and… um… pinkish people… could eat in restaurants together, and stuff like that.”
“That’s right,” I smile. Then, I ask, “Do you know what my T-shirt says?”
“It says ‘co-exist’ — what does that mean?” After a pause I help them through the process. “What does ‘exist’ mean?”
“Something that’s actually real?” offers a little Hispanic girl.
“Yes! And what does co- mean? Like co-operate?”
“To work together?”
“That’s right! So, what does it mean when we put them together? Co-exist?”
“To be real together?” blurts out the little Hispanic girl.
“That’s right!” My life feels worth living as I participate in magic moments like this.
We discuss the symbolism on my T-shirt such as the peace sign, the Star of David, the Yin and Yang and the Christian cross. I tell them I want each of them to come up with a word that is important to them and illustrate it with symbols. As I watch, their creations make my heart sing.
“Oh, really?” says my eight-year-old cynic, raising one eyebrow. “And, what does that sound like?”
Why, it sounds kind of like this:
Yeah, they thought that was kind of sappy, too! What does co-existing mean to you? What makes your heart sing and what does it sound like? Thank you for sharing!