Today we celebrate the man and his dream. Martin Luther King Jr. Day acknowledges the leader of the civil rights movement, but the generations that came after the struggle are likely to feel disconnected from that period in history. 90.3 FM's Tarice Sims spoke to the eldest child of Dr. King about how to remedy this problem. Yolanda King says her dream is to use the arts, to help her father's dream come alive for a new generation.
Tarice Sims- More than 30 years ago Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. led a movement that charged America to treat everyone equally, regardless of race, creed or culture. The civil rights movement is still embraced as a part of history, but for many young people the movement is stuck in history. Dr. King's daughter Yolanda King says she has witnessed this first hand.
Yolanda King- I remember a little six-year-old boy came up to me and he was just so pleased, he said 'is it true, is it true are you really Martin Luther King's daughter?' and I said 'yes' and he said looking at me as if I was a ghost 'then why aren't you dead?!' And it wasn't just simply because he knew my father was assassinated, but it just seemed to him to be so far away back in time. And so for young people it is really important I think to continue to tell the story.
TS- Yolanda King says she wants to use her talents as an actress to make the story real and help shatter the idea that the movement was just a mirage, especially in the eyes of young people. She says her style of acting allows her to be more of a teacher than a Lecturer when addresses an audience. Instead of talking at people, she uses body language and drama to engage the audience and draw them into the story. In fact, she calls what she does edutainment a blend of education and entertainment.
YK- I saw the potency the power of art and theater particularly not only to entertain but to educate. You can touch and connect with people's spirits, and their soul, their hearts their minds in a way that I think is perhaps one of the most powerful ways of reaching people.
TS- Yolanda King says those who lived through the movement should want to spread it's message especially to generations that weren't a part of it. She has done this in the movie "Selma, Lord Selma" a Disney production that tells the story of the march to Montgomery through the eyes of children.
Earlier this month, Yolanda King was in Cleveland addressing an audience of adults and teens from all over northeast Ohio. She described for them how people who walked with Dr. King were attacked by police dogs and sprayed with powerful fire hoses that would knock marchers to the ground. She also emphasized that even in an America with a booming economy, 1/5 of young children still live in poverty. Chloe Hill who is a senior at Shaker Heights High School was in the audience. She says, the blend of art and politics Yolanda King used made her message come alive.
Chloe Hill- We all know about Martin Luther King, we all celebrate the holiday, but somehow this message has gotten so universal. And so that it's hard to connect to it on a personal level. And, when we actually saw her speak we saw someone who had been through it all and was there and talking to us on a human level it made it so much clearer, and so much easier to see how we can all actively get involved.
TS- Hill is a part of the Shaker Heights High Chantecliers, a well known choir that has been performing publicly for several decades. They got a chance to sing music from the Harlem Renaissance as part of Yolanda King's recent appearance. They also talked to her face to face about the civil rights struggle. Brandon Landrum is an energetic sophomore member of the Chantecliers. He says her words spoke to him on a personal level.
Brandon Landrum- Her speaking reminded me of something my grandmother use to say. Like, if everyone brings one brick we can build a nation. And it kind of helped me understand what she was saying because, everything that people do is important and one person can make a difference and if everybody makes a difference the whole world can change.
TS- Landrum and other members of the Chantecliers say music is how they make a difference. This Thursday the Chantecliers will perform at the 12th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration at the Shaker Heights Middle School. They say they want to emulate Yolanda King and inspire their audience to want to make the Dream come true. One of the songs they are preparing for their performance is the Negro National Anthem "Lift Every Voice," written by the Black poet James Weldon Johnson and arranged by Rollin Carter. In Cleveland, I'm Tarice Sims for 90.3 FM.