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I Will Teach my Daughter that MLK was More than a Peaceful Protestor
January 16, 2017

As told by countless teachers in K-12, MLK was a peaceful protestor for justice. He was a preacher, husband, and father devoted to the gospel and helping bring about change in America. Moreover, his philosophies and teachings were in direct contrast to Malcolm X. He didn't "endorse" violence or follow a faith still not accepted in this country.

Much like many black intellectuals who have the opportunity (privilege) to take authentic black studies classes in college I quickly learned this narrow summary of MLK serves a hidden purpose of submissiveness. It is meant to show future activist that peaceful and quiet protests are what lead to victory. Another underlying message is to not expect change overnight. Instead, change is a slow agent - moving inch by inch over months and years. The problem with these statements (aside from the obvious) is that is not necessarily the mentality MLK had nor the truth based on history. MLK was JUST as much a rebel as Malcolm X. His "peaceful" protests were hardly ever peaceful and often ended with threats, beatings, and arrests. MLK FOUGHT for freedom at a time when it was hard to come by. He wanted justice to happen as quickly as possible because he understood that every day mattered to the oppressed. He was jailed numerous times, cut off from his family, victim to illegal surveillance, and ultimately killed because he was a revolutionary. His peacefulness did not spare his life.

This is the MLK my daughter will know. The pastor, husband, father, and ACTIVIST who risked his life on a daily for our basic rights. I will teach her about the bus boycott and it's economic strategy before we listen to the "I Have a Dream" speech. She will watch footage of the march to Selma before we dive into the real differences between Malcolm X and MLK. Most importantly, she will be taught that MLK was a human with flaws that possessed the determination and will to wake up every day focused on the singular cause of creating an experience for his children better his own.

It is my responsibility to make sure my daughter understands all aspects of MLK and other great leaders of the civil rights movement. It is especially important that she understand the complex yet, critical role women played in the movement. I want her to know that when she was given the middle name Amaya, it was in dedication to freedom fighter Maya Angelou who inspires me with her words on a daily basis. None more appropriate then her lines from Still I Rise, "bringing the gifts my ancestors gave, I am the dream and the hope of the slave."

MLK is an ancestor whose "gifts" were a legacy of activism. He carried a burden that many were not able to, and in doing so he pushed the boundaries of our ancestors' hopes and dreams. His rare and pure selflessness for the movement is what my daughter will be taught. And hopefully, she will realize that the life she lives must be one that our ancestors, MLK included, could not even dream about.
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