Monday, January 19, 2009

More on the Momentousness of Today and Tomorrow...

When I came home today, Kieran had Nicholas' baptism candle on the table and announced that we needed to light it for dinner. (Our church has a tradition of a baptism candle, which you are supposed to light on the anniversary of the child's baptism...have we ever done this??? NO!) We said, "But we're supposed to light that on Nicholas' baptism anniversary..."

Kieran declared that we had to light it in honor of Martin Luther King Junior's birthday. Well, who could argue with that?

Here are some great articles I read today in the New York Times about the inauguration and MLK's birthday:

"White Like Me," by Frank Rich, another white kid who was marked by the classic Black Like Me, and who reflects on the ongoing racial issues in Washington DC

"Dear Sir Obama," letters to Obama from schoolchildren

"Dr. King's Last Birthday," by Jesse Jackson Sr., who was honored to be able to be with Dr. King on his last birthday alive

And finally, I saw this incredible video coverage of Dr. King being interviewed by the BBC's Bob McKenzie in 1964. Dr. King predicted that there would be a "negro" president within 40 years, and perhaps even within 25 years. He was filled with a spirit of wonderful optimism about the future of race relations in this country.

Sad to say, it has taken nearly 45 years to reach such a day, but hallelujah, it's here at last!!

MLK's sister, Christine King Farris, was not as optimistic about the future possibility of an African-American president...especially after her brother was brutally murdered.

And finally, I want to close with this wonderful message sent to parents from the Portland Public Schools--very timely given the front page coverage in The Oregonian yesterday, naming Portland as one of the whitest cities in the country:

Dear Portland Public School Community and Friends,

We write with greetings at the launch of a momentous week. Today, we pause to recognize and reflect on the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Tomorrow we inaugurate our country's first African American President.

As directors of your Portland Public Schools, we know that the events of this week are more than historic moments. They are a call to action. For many years, our schools have worked to better serve our students of color. But we must do more. Our drop-out rate among students of color remains too high; our achievement scores too low. We must raise our expectations and work relentlessly to get results. As Dr. King said: "The time is always right to do what is right."

We are a majority white city, educating an increasingly diverse student body in our public schools. Inherent in Barack Obama's election is the message that our racial differences can be a bridge not a barrier. We pledge as your elected school board to help our schools walk across that bridge. We will build on policies that support our educators' abilities to believe in and reach every student, policies that reward positive results. We will pay close attention. We will expect more.

We hope you will join in this effort. We know that overcoming deep inequities takes persistence, and this is not a job that your schools can do alone. But it must get done. There are many more presidential elections to come. Maybe someday we will elect one of our own graduates.

May you experience and act on the inspiration of Dr. King and of our new President Barack Obama.

Sincerely,
Your Portland Public School Board
Dilafruz Williams, Co-chair
Trudy Sargent, Co-chair
Ruth Adkins
Martin Gonzalez
Sonja Henning
Bobbie Regan
David Wynde
Olin Stickler, student representative
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At Portland Public Schools, this is our goal: By the end of elementary, middle, and high school, every student by name will meet or exceed academic standards and will be fully prepared to make productive life decisions. Portland Public Schools is an equal opportunity educator and employer.

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