Smoke Signals: Apathy for Black History Month not evident in district

by Tim Troglen | reporter Published:

I love history.

And since I was a child, Black History Month has held a special place in my heart. I guess growing up in a time of civil rights struggles, attending schools where my pigmentation made me the minority, I was fortunate enough to share in the cultural up-bringing of my black friends, putting me in a unique position to relate and learn a portion of American history which has not always been taught.

I look forward to the special programming on historical figures such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks and one of my all-time heroes, Frederick Douglass. I was disappointed this year when I did not see any build-up or promotion of the month.

I began to dig and ask questions.

When I checked with Schools Communications Manager Sheryl Sheatzley, she promised to help me in my search.

I was thrilled at what she found.

Not only were there several district events scheduled for Black History Month, but some classes began earlier by reading works on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks in January.

The commemorations were districtwide, according to what we found out.

Hudson High School students had watched Dr. King's 1963 "I Have a Dream" speech and wrote down their dreams.

McDowell Elementary School students in Patricia Armbruster's third-grade reading class read and discussed the book "I Have a Dream," Sheatzley said.

The class is also working on two "reader's theaters," or works in script form, according to Armbruster.

This was good stuff.

I couldn't help but think that Dr. King would be proud of each student and teacher trying to keep the legacy of that time period alive.

Then I heard about Rose Smoral's second-grade class at Ellsworth Hill. Her class wrote about their dreams, after learning about Martin Luther King's dreams, Sheatzley said.

"Students also listened to the story 'My Brother Martin' written by Martin Luther King's sister Christine Farris," Smoral said. "Students then wrote their own dream for the world."

Smoral shared some of her students' dreams with me. Each one began, as Dr. King's speech did, with the words, "I have a dream."

"My dream is to have no more littering in the world," wrote Aiden Dine. "I can help my dream come true by picking up garbage on the ground and putting it in the trash can."

That's a wonderful dream, Aiden.

"My dream is that one day there will be no more bullying," wrote Evan Johnson. "I can help my dream come true by treating people kindly and respectfully. If I see bullying I will try to stop it."

That is exactly the type of thing Dr. King was fighting for, Evan.

Easton Rowell also wrote about concerns for school safety.

"My dream is that nobody will get into fights anymore so people can be more safe," Easton wrote. "I can help my dream come true by stopping fights that happen at school between friends and between other people."

I was amazed at these dreams and the second-graders, too young to grasp the true meaning of the Civil Rights struggle more than 40 years ago, espousing some of the same things Dr. King was fighting for and ultimately gave his life for.

I think Dr. King would be proud of the Hudson teachers and students.

I am.

Another reason Black History Month holds a special place in my heart is the racial diversity of my family. My twin nieces are bi-racial. Their dad, my brother-in-law, is black.

I remember when they were children, singing with them "Dr. King, Dr. King, Dr. King was a civil rights rider." I remember telling them about Dr. King and his struggle to bring people together. I also remember the girls crying because their white friends called them "black" and their black friends called them "white."

But they learned to overcome without prejudice -- another reason for me to love them.

One of the twins now has three children, the oldest 4, and the youngest less than a month old. I look forward to singing the same songs with them, teaching them about a man and a struggle that made it possible for them to walk down the same street, drink from the same water fountain and use the same restroom as everyone else.

Dr. King's dream is coming true.

Sir Winston Churchill was quoted as saying, "Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it."

I've learned, Mr. Churchill.

And I'm going to do my part to make sure Americans never have to struggle for their civil rights again.

How about you?

Email: ttroglen@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9435

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