When my African American daughter asked, "Mommy, are white people more important than black people?"  I knew it was time to have a conversation about race.  It may have been the tv news or the cultural cues every black child instinctually internalizes that caused her question - regardless, it was a painful conversation that I knew I'd eventually have to have.  In fact, no matter your perspective on race, gender or creed - it is a conversation.   We proudly advocate equality for all souls, so my daunting task that day was to reassure my 5-year old of her value, while skillfully indoctrinating her into the very real discussion on discrimination.

The conversation is ongoing especially when we discuss bullying, hair, dollies, her clothing choices, her career choices...little by little we are negotiating the circuitous route of bias.  A good friend of ours posted, "my daughter saw me scowling at her white doll and looked at me and said, 'can't my black dollies have one white friend?' "  At that moment, she realized that in her effort to empower her daughter, she was subtly instilling bias.  Thankfully, it was the mother's own teachings on equality that prevailed.  Good parenting at work.

In our family, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day has traditionally been a day filled with teaching moments.  My fellow, Mocha Moms and I plan a group trip to one of the many artful events around the city because the arts have traditionally been a thoughtful way to express and discuss the human condition.  Below, are just a few events, activities and inspirations that are sure to make Martin Luther King's birthday a celebration and a teaching moment.


The process of creating a piece of visual art is diverse - different colored paints, paper, different mediums used by different people - no two creations are every the same.  Check out these crafty activities that offer a tactile way to discuss diversity.

MLK Day Collage Workshop
IMG_1515Brooklyn Doodles, Monday, January 18,  1-3pm, Brooklyn, NY
Participants will work with a variety of materials to compose collages that celebrate friendship, love and community. Inspiration will come from the works of a Romare Bearden and other famous collage artists!




Explore The Dream Though Art

CDKTA_1Express Yourself Studios, Monday, January 18,  11am-2pm, Maplewood, NJ
Children ages 4-12 are welcome to learn about Dr. King and the Civil Rights Movement through art. Children will create art exploring the themes of Peace, Equality and Friendship.




Peace Collage
DIY CRAFT: Art. Paper. Scissors. Glue!

This DIY collage by Art. Paper. Scissors. Glue, create a collage symbolizing all human kind striving for love and peace. Ask your child to choose paper that represents the races of the world.  What are the races of the world?  What makes them different?  What do you think when you see a person who looks different than you? What do you think would make the world and it's people happier?

You will need:

  • Tempera Paint
  • White Drawing Paper
  • Construction Paper (Red, Black, White, Yellow, Brown, Pink)
  • Pencil
  • Scissors
  • Paintbrushes
  • Sponges, Paint Scrapers (Optional)
  • Glue


Kirigami Peace Circle
VIDEO: by Origami for Kids
Many types of children holding hands is a great visual of Martin Luther King Jr.'s message of peace. Because it requires a bit of precision with a scissors, it's recommended for kids 8-14.

Martin Luther King Day Paper Craft: Kirigami Peace CircleYou will need:

  • Scissors
  • paper
  • paint





Performance arts also present teaching moments.  Challenging topics that are beautifully paired with movement and sound can create deep emotion that transcend words.   Go to a concert, a ballet or a play.  After the performance, you may ask, “So, when this thing happened or when you heard such-and-such, how did it make you feel?”  What do you think the artist was feeling when they created that piece of music?

BAM'a 30th Annual Celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

BAC_1BAM, Monday, January 18, 10:30- 12:00pm, Brooklyn, NY.
BAM presents the 30th annual celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., New York City’s largest public celebration the great civil rights leader. This year’s main event features a keynote address by prominent intellectual, professor, author, and radio host Michael Eric Dyson, with musical performances by Kimberly Nichole and The Brooklyn Interdenominational Choir.



Max Roach's Solo to "I Have A Dream"
VIDEO: Max Roach & Kit Fitzgerald

Max Roach – Martin Luther King Jr.If you can't get to a show, there's plenty of performance art on the internet.  I'm partial to this piece (of course!). It is an improvised duet between musician, Max Roach, and graphic artist, Kit Fitzgerald.  This was how King's dream speech moved these artists.  How will Dr. King, Jr. inspire your little ones?  Check out this little girl's film.






Events and videos can help you tell the story of Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement with age appropriate words and tone, as well as, accuracy.  Let’s face it, though the struggle continues, these events occurred before most of our lifetimes.  Don’t be afraid to brush up on your facts first or be embarrassed that someone else can tell the story better.   You can still follow up with questions like:  Was it unfair to treat other people differently because they looked different?  Why?;  How would you make the world a better place? What is your dream? ;  Have you ever seen anyone be mean to someone else because they are different?  How would you respond? ; How would it make you feel if someone was mean to you because of your hair color or clothing?

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Storytelling and Music Event
Grace Reformed Church, Monday, January 18, 11:00am-2:30pm, Brooklyn, NY

greenlight-logoGreenlight is proud to partner with the Prospect Lefferts Gardens Neighborhood Association (PLGNA) and other organizations in presenting the annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Day event for neighborhood families.  The program includes performances by vocal groups, youth dancers, and authors, including Brooklyn children’s authors Selina Alko and Sean Qualls, who present their book Two Friends about Frederick Douglass and Susan B. Anthony.

What's Your Dream? Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Event
Museum at Eldridge Street, Monday, January 18, 1:00pm - 2:30pm, Manhattan, NY

WYDMLK_1Martin Luther King, Jr. fought for justice and equal rights. The immigrants who built the Eldridge Street Synagogue travelled far to find freedom. With hard work and hope, their dreams slowly changed the country and the world. What’s your dream?

This Martin Luther King Day, enjoy the beauty of this historic site as we read the award-winning story by Kobi Yamada, What Do You Do With An Idea? and make a mural inspired by Martin Luther King’s ideas, his famous speech … and our own dreams. For ages 4-11 and their families.



Martin Luther King Jr. Story Read by LeVar Burton 
Martin Luther King Jr. Story Read by LeVar Burton – Reading Rainbow Story TimeVIDEO: Reading Rainbow 
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was one of the great heroes of the civil rights movement. Watch as LeVar Burton reads you a story about Dr. King's life from the Friendship Baptist Church in Pasadena, California. The Story Time video focuses on teaching children about the importance of the acceptance of others, no matter differences in personal, religious, political, or physical dissimilarities.  More MLK Stories.



The Story of Martin Luther King Jr. by Kid President
The Story of Martin Luther King Jr. by Kid PresidentVIDEO: SoulPancake 
Last but certainly not least.  Kid President!  Let another kid help tell the story.  In this adorable video, Kid President reminds us, "that things won't always be awesome, but your response can be. Remember, things don't always have to be as they are. We can change them! Kids can change them."  Enough said.



Make Arts A Teaching Moment on Diversity