Service, Learning and Change

Celebrate Dr. King’s Legacy
with These Activities

“One of life’s most persistent and urgent questions is: What are you doing for others,?” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said. Dr. King’s philosophy is worth examining closely, as the nation prepares to celebrate his life on Jan. 20. In his later years, Dr. King led a rather privileged life, but he always had compassion for those less privileged, including the poor, the unemployed, the homeless. He wanted everyone to have a hand up, an opportunity to realize their dreams.

On the day that celebrates Dr. King’s legacy, consider these activities with your children:

Participate in a Day of Service, giving your family’s time to help someone less fortunate. In 2013, 4,000 volunteers helped 55 organizations throughout metro Atlanta. Volunteers are being coordinated through Hands On Atlanta (handsonatlanta.org/mlkday2014); contact Genora Crooke, gcrooke@handsonatlanta.org or call 404-979-2820. For other activities, see MLK Events, Page 98.

Read or listen to Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, delivered Aug. 28, 1963, in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., and discuss its significance, simplifying his message for younger children and going more in depth with tweens. Talk about discrimination and the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Take the children to visit the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site in downtown Atlanta to learn about the civil rights movement and Dr. King’s life. Be sure to visit his boyhood home. Go early – the National Park Service says that on MLK Day the site isn’t crowded until a church service ends at 2 p.m. Find more at nps.gov/malu.

Read about Dr. King, maybe one of these illustrated children’s books, published in 2013:
My Daddy, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (Amistad/HarperCollins Publishers, $17.99, ages 4-8) by his son Martin Luther King III and illustrated by AG Ford describes Dr. King as a “warm and playful man.” Children will read about Martin King III’s experience as the only black child in his classroom.
Martin & Mahalia, His Words, Her Song (Little Brown & Company, 17.99, ages 6 and older) by Andrea Davis Pinkney and illustrated by Brian Pinkney, tells the story of Dr. King and singer Mahalia Jackson during the civil rights struggle, leading up to the March on Washington in 1963. Ms. Jackson delivered a stirring song before Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech.

Help your children gather up gently-used toys they no longer play with – discarded Legos or Matchbox cars, dolls or board games they’ve outgrown – and donate them for a second round of play with other children. Used children’s books also are welcomed by many organizations. Consider donating to Ronald McDonald House, which supports children undergoing medical treatment; The Georgia Center for Child Advocacy, which supports children physically or sexually abused; CHRIS kids, which focuses on foster care children; or church daycare facilities and women’s shelters. Call ahead to make sure the organization needs the toys or books.

Help your child make a new friend, someone who seems “different” from him: A child of another race, a child who grew up in a foreign country, a child with a learning or physical disability, a child in foster care. Teaching your child that other children may look different but are children just like him is a priceless lesson. 

For young children, make a paper doll chain, then color the “people” all colors of the rainbow to teach the value that skin color does not define who you are or whether you’ll realize your dreams.

Set up a video camera or use your phone recorder and ask your children to talk about their hopes and dreams. Do it every year, and you’ll have a keepsake to treasure when they’re thoughtful, caring, compassionate adults.
– Amanda Allen