Sunday, January 15, 2012

Lift Every Voice and Sing

After New Years, Moira asked what holiday was next. "Martin Luther King Day," we told her, without bothering to explain anything about it. She immediately set about making her friends Martin Luther King Day cards, and presents, and decorations for our house.

This is a holiday that I've always had a sentimental attachment to. My school, which I attended from Kindergarten through 12th grade, made a pretty big deal our of it with special assemblies, and lesson plans, and singing, and one memorable year, the encouragement that the upper grades attend the anti war rally happening downtown. I think something about the radical nature of our school's origin lead to the staff having a fond spot for equal rights and the struggles of the 60's.

I finally got a chance to explain to Moira a basic level of why we celebrate this day. That once a long time ago some people thought you could tell how good a person was by the color of their skin. That people thought the lighter your skin, the better a person you were. That Martin Luther King was a kind man who happened to have dark brown skin who proved to everyone that that wasn't true.

As soon as I was done talking, Moira said "I don't want to know that. I want to know why Christmas trees have lights." So we talked about that for a little bit. Maybe tomorrow I will teach her the song we always sung at school. Maybe next year, we will have the conversation again, and she will want to know.

Lift every voice and sing, till earth and heaven ring,
Ring with the harmonies of liberty;
Let our rejoicing rise, high as the list’ning skies,
Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.
Sing a song full of the faith
that the dark past has taught us,
Sing a song full of the hope
that the present has brought us;
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun,
Let us march on till victory is won.

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