recess radio program

1/19/04
Martin Luther King Jr. Day
    by John Cech

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That's Kim and Reggie Harris, with their song in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. It's Dr. King's day today, and his sister, Christine King Farris, gives us a fresh, new way to remember him in her recent book, My Brother Martin. Mrs. Farris provides a view of Dr. King's life that had been relatively obscure before -- that is, a sense of him as a boy, know as M.L. to his family, to distinguish him from his distinguished father, the Revered Martin Luther King Sr., the minister at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, where the King family made its home. M.L., his sister, and their younger brother, A.D. (who was named Alfred Daniel after their grandfather) grew up in the Atlanta neighborhood that's called Sweet Auburn -- normal kids, playing baseball, tag, and sometimes playing jokes on the passers-by and on their stern music teacher, Mr. Mann. And also playing with the white children who lived across the street -- until one day when, Mrs. Farris reports "the boys ... told my brothers that they couldn't play together anymore because A.D. and M.L. were Negroes."

This event became a turning point in M.L.'s consciousness. Their mother had explained racism to the three children, and when M.L. asked her why it had to be this way, she replied that "...they just don't understand that everyone is the same, but someday it will be better." According to his sister, during this conversation, M.L. told his mother: "one day I'm going to turn this world upside down." It's a stunning and a stirring answer, that lies at the heart of this elegantly simple, beautifully told and radiantly illustrated string of memories, an elegy to one of America's visionary leaders who spoke his life's purpose in one clear moment of childhood.

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Today's program featured the following work:

Copyright 2004 John Cech

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"Recess!" is a co-production of the University of Florida's Center for Children's Literature and Culture and WUFT-FM, "Classic 89."