For a set up, I had signs around the house saying "Happy Martin Luther King Day" with his photo or a famous quote on it.
First and foremost, I read about the background and life of Martin Luther King Jr. I told about his family, his leadership in the church as well as his passion for equal rights. I talked about his Nobel Peace Prize, famous speeches, and his assassination.
Then I had Jaxon do a word search page I printed out, that had words like "black", "dream", "equal", "love" etc on it. He loves doing word searches so I knew that one would be a hit with him.
Then all of the kids made a black and white collage where they glued torn up pieces of black and white paper mix matched all over a bright colored background page.
When they were complete
I talked to them about how beautiful they all turned out and how it wouldn't have been as cool looking if it were just black or all white. Then I started talking about how no two pieces of paper were the same just like no two people are the same. Everyone has different talents, gifts and purposes and we all benefit when people use their individual talents and gifts to fulfill their individual purposes instead of trying to be like everyone else.
After that I took just Jaxon into the girls rooms and grabbed all the baby dolls. Because we have one black daughter and one white daughter we have a variety of skin toned baby dolls. I set them all side by side and asked Jaxon to point out what the dolls had in common. Then I asked him what was different about them. Then I talked to him about how they all had the same feelings. IE If this one (doll) fell down and scraped her knee and this one (doll) did too, would they both be hurting? Then I asked him to name some of his friends. I asked if they have something in common with him. Then I asked what was different about him and his friends. We concluded this activity with the reminder that we may have some things that look different but the most important things about people are the same.
Also online I found a song about MLK to the tune of "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" (one of their favorites) so I sang it.
Another craft idea I found online was called "hand in hand." Basically you draw 6 hand shapes on a different color of paper representing a different skin tone (color). Then we cut them out.
I had Jaxon write out the phrase "I will love others as myself" one word per hand. Like a puzzle they had to put the phrase in the right order to read "I will love others as myself" and then glue the hands together. As we did all this we talked about ways we love and take care of ourselves (eat when hungry, sleep when tired, etc). Then we asked what are some ways we can love others. We also related this point to John 6:31, the Golden Rule "do unto others as you would have done to you" and how what MLK stood for connected to Scripture.
My favorite part of the day however came at lunch. I interjected some "unequal treatment" amongst my family. After we all had finished our food I asked Nathan to go and buy 5 cookies for dessert. When he came back I handed out the cookies to Jovie, Jaydn and myself and then closed up the bag. When Jaxon asked where his was I explained he didn't get one. He could see there were more in the bag so he reminded me that he too had finished his meal so he should get one. I said, "No you don't get one b/c you are a boy." I had told Nathan of my plan beforehand so he wasn't getting one either. Jaxon looked to his dad for some help on the issue but Nathan just explained that he couldn't have one either b/c he too was a boy. What took place over the course of the next 5-10 minutes as he watched all of us girls enjoying our treats, was awesome. He became upset, saying things like, "that's not fair," and "I ate my lunch just like they did and should be able to have a cookie too." I let it escalate until it came to the point that he started telling me that I was mean. I turned to him and asked, "how does it make you feel that you aren't getting a cookie b/c you are a boy?" He said, "Sad. You are hurting my feelings. Its not fair or nice that you aren't letting me have a cookie like the girls have." For the next few minutes I explained to him that on a bigger scale, "sad" and "hurt" are how black people were feeling during MLK's time. Also "sad" and "hurt" is how everyone feels when they are treated unfairly so it's important to not be partial in our love for others. Although focused on getting a cookie, I think when I told him that I was going to be like Jesus instead of being like the white people back in MLK's day and let him have a cookie, his heart clicked onto the idea that loving people differently b/c they are different is wrong and hurtful.
Anyway, while all activities and discussions we had today were small steps in a large sea of issues we will face and encounter, I feel like it was a great start!
Have you talked to your children about race?
If you don't think you need to please consider reading this article: http://www.newsweek.com/2009/09/04/see-baby-discriminate.html
If you decide you want to start that dialogue, my friend Erika has some great first steps to help you: