Today is the day we officially celebrate the birthday of Martin Luther King. He is a leader who influenced change with nonviolent means. Days like this give us a chance to stop and think. When I reflect, I remember a book I read in 2014 about a girl with a dream.
Melba Pattillo Beals wrote a memoir called Warriors Don’t Cry. The story unfolds as an inside perspective from a girl who was part of the Little Rock Nine students. History has recognized their place in the struggle to carry out the supreme court's call for an end to legal segregation of of public schools. Even with legal backing attending Central High School in Little Rock Arkansas in 1957 was a dangerous endeavor because the governor of Arkansas called in state National Guard troops to block the students from attending.
Years before Martin Luther King delivered his I Have a Dream speech, young Melba met news reporters who asked her opinion. She was surprised because they treated her as an equal. In fact that pivotal moment deepened her conviction to continue with her dream in the midst of very difficult days of attending school that year. This feeling of being seen as equal led Melba to become a journalist later in life. She reports this moment from a journal entry:
Today is the first time in my life I felt equal to white people. I want more of that feeling. I’ll do whatever I have to do keep feeling equal all the time. - Melba Pattillo Beals
An important adult in Melba's life at that time was her grandmother, India. Her grandmother was the person Melba could rely on for strength. While the grandmother was not able to go to school for Melba, she gained courage to keep going because she had witnessed her grandmother stand up to injustice in the past.
If you haven't done so already, I encourage you to read the book with an important child in your life. Even though the book is written for students in middle school, it can be experienced as a read aloud for younger kids depending on their maturity level. They will see history as it happened and experience Melba's difficulty and doubts. The universal theme of struggle will resonate with kids.
Cup of Leadership is a blog for people who lead children.
Deanne Bryce is a writer for young children and an advocate for personal leadership at all ages. This post is part of a category of posts that explore universal themes from childhood. As leaders of children, we can help kids reflect on experiences and grow.