I am old enough to remember when the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was not a holiday. I am also old enough to have lived and worked at enough places that have celebrated this day with varying degrees of "enthusiasm," for lack of a better word, that I truly am grateful for those that find some way to honor the dream of Dr. King.
Michigan has a strong historical connection to this holiday, esteemed congressman, John Conyers from Detroit was the first to introduce legislation to make this a national holiday-in 1968! It wasn't until 1983, following lobbying by Coretta Scott King, Stevie Wonder and millions of others that this legislation became law, with implementation beginning in 1986. For a good overview of the history behind this, check out the Time Magazine article by Frances Romero, "A Brief History of Martin Luther King Jr. Day." I am sure you will find enough information in this article to provide a good overview to your children.
If you are fortunate to have this day off, or have time on the Sunday before, perhaps you will want to consider one of these ideas to commemorate this day.
1. Marquette. The U.P. Children's Museum, a gem in the U.P, is hosting a special celebration. Northern Michigan University Students will help with crafts and readings. It is such a wonderful museum for families, I hope you are able to participate in this activity or put a stop at the museum on your summer travel list!
2. Redford. St. Robert Bellarmine is host to the annual MLK Jr. breakfast. To me this is a shining example of a wonderful way to celebrate Dr. King's legacy. It features entertainment from local students and adult musical groups, interfaith prayer, great pancakes, and a time for service. Proceeds from the breakfast go to Redford Interfaith Relief Food Pantry, and following the morning program, participants will make sandwiches for St. Aloysius Neighborhood Services in Detroit, a wonderful parish serving the downtown Detroit community. This year, the dynamic storyteller Gwendolyn Lewis will illuminate the theme, "Bringing Us Together."
3.Flint. The Flint community is having a "movable" celebration-activities at the Flint Public Library on 1026 E. Kearsley followed by activities at the Flint Institute of Arts. These events will feature a variety of activities, including presentations of the "I Have a Dream Speech," a keynote speech by pediatrician and activist, Dr. Lawrence Reynolds, as well as a step performance by the Gamma Delta Kudos. I have a feeling that the Flint community would be held close to the heart of Dr. King and a profound reminder of how much farther we have to go to achieve his dream.
4. Dearborn. The Henry Ford Museum. How can I go a month without featuring one of my favorite places in Michigan? There are a wide variety of activities at the Henry Ford on this day, but there are two "must-do's." The first, spend time at the Rosa Parks bus. The line may be long, and you may think, "this is just a bus," but for me, stepping into this small, almost cramped, vehicle, and imagining the exhausted, diminutive Rosa Parks, sparking a 13 month boycott that changed the course of history, is tremendously humbling. The other "must do" is listening to the "Minds on Freedom" interactive presentation. As you can imagine, the whole event is high quality.
Looking for more things to do? Check out the great listing from the great folks at Metro Parent, which features even more ways to celebrate this day in Southeastern Michigan.
Whatever you do, I hope you find time to spend time with your family, participate in some service, and give thanks for this American hero, and the many folks who tirelessly work day in and day out to make the world a better place for ourselves and our children.
Enjoy and Travel Local!