Friday, January 19, 2007

The Martin Luther King Day Mystery

Last year, Li’l A and I watched Richard Attenborough’s Gandhi together. Don‘t tell me it‘s overly hagiographic (I know); and don‘t ask me what a five-year-old got out of it (I don‘t know).

But I guess something must have stuck, because he told me that he had mentioned to his class when they were prepping for MLK Day that MLK had been influenced by Gandhi.

And that they didn’t believe him.

So we embarked upon some high-tech research (okay, okay--we googled) to reassure Li’l A that there had, in fact, been a strong and acknowledged influence. Although really, whether MLK’s avowal of moral force over physical force is Gandhian in provenance or not, it would still be awesome and admirable.

We also found the I-have-a-Dream speech.

And we watched that too. Too often, as the grownup, I’m unable to satisfactorily explain to my boy why some people live on the streets (no, really--how do we let that happen?) or I may have to introduce him to the world in terms of its danger--don’t talk to strangers. So on the occasions that we watch something uplifting like MLK’s speech, it makes me feel like a successful parent to be able to say: Yes, it’s true that the world isn’t always fair, but it is possible to take a stand, to change indifference and injustice to action and equality.

Watching those thousands of marchers singing “We Shall Overcome,” readying to fight the moral fight, black and white amassed like one family in the literal and figurative shadow of the Lincoln Memorial resulted in significant goosebumps for me and a look of great seriousness for Li’l A (even though as any self-respecting kid would, he ribbed me, momentarily, about the goosebumps).

Then I noticed all these men in the background wearing what looked like Gandhian topis. Although I wonder if they might not just be naval flat hats.

I don’t have a clue…

Do you?


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4 comments:

pied piper said...

from what i recall, i think they are gandhian topis, actually. i'll bet some cool teacher out there (paging tamasha!) knows for sure....

tamasha said...

Have no fear! I'm here!

I don't know about the topis.

But, it is commonly acknowledged by many (including Coretta Scott King during her lifetime) that MLK was influenced by Gandhi. He visited India in 1959 and met with Gandhi followers. Also, he owned several copies of Gandhi's books, which were part of his estate, which was recently put on exhibition... somwhere. I can't remember.

My curriculum for the year is based on Asia, South Asia in particular, and I refuse to budge from it, even for our required civil rights unit in January. We do a study of Gandhi, including the film (which takes a million years to watch in school). We focus especially on the idea of "satyagraha" and the Salt March. It's wonderful (if I do say so myself).

maya said...

Thanks, for the suggestion, Piper :)

And thanks for swooping in like the superhero you are, Tamasha! (Although, we'd pretty much resolved the Gandhian influence--i'm still wondering about those topis though...)

I'd really be interested in a copy of your reading list; your course sounds awesome.

tomy hill said...


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