Living the Dream A Reflection of MLK Interactive Readings

Posted 18 March 2015 12:00 AM by By Jeremy Gooden

This February, in celebration of Black History Month, the Citi Performing Art Center’s Education Department offered interactive readings of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, accompanied by illustrations by celebrated African-American artist, Kadir Nelson. The 2-week program aims to engage young people in a conversation about the core values of Dr. King’s ideology, through the performing arts. For that reason, I was incredibly excited to be the lead teaching artist for this particular program.

 I was, however, unsure about how to discuss Dr. King’s message and the weighty socio-political issues inherent in that discussion, with a young audience. While Dr. King’s vision of peace and unity was the golden nugget I wanted participants to walk away with, I feared that sugarcoating or skimming over the immense acts of injustice and oppression toward African-Americans, in the 1950’s and 60’s, would diminish their experience. I feared that young people would not be able to stomach such a heinous and hurtful history. And boy was I wrong.

 Interactive Reading attendees were given the opportunity to participate in forum theatre, an art form used as a tool to teach people how to change their world. Children of all ages, at all visited sites, showcased their empathy by combating injustice with gestures of peace, kindness, and togetherness in relatable scenes that presented conflicts they may encounter their daily lives. They put their brilliance on display by suggesting solutions to disputes regarding issues of racial and gender inequality. And they sang songs of freedom while learning about influential African-American musicians of the past.

 After the first week’s sessions, my fear that children would find it difficult to thoroughly discuss one of our nation’s ugliest time periods vanished. From then on out, it was a beautiful experience. One that I was humbled by. And while great strides still need to be made for nationwide racial equality, I am grateful to live in a much more progressive time, where children of differing creeds and colors can appreciate and support Dr. King’s message of unity. I am truly hopeful not only for the future of our nation, but for the future of our world. For it is in good hands.  

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