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MLK Day 2014

Posted by | January 20, 2014 | BAMBINOS | 5 Comments


This is a big day for us each year. We take it seriously; we honor this day; we try to truly take time out to reflect upon the life and symbol of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He is a role model that we hold up. And there are a lot of other role models that we hold up too. I try to remind the bambinos of how far we’ve come, and how far we have to go. Each year the day becomes a bit more somber, as they grow older and more capable of handling the more painful information and hearing the challenge which is laid out before them.

Today we spent the morning at the bambinos’ school, participating in a tribute celebration. The focus of the event was “Unsung Heroes: People Behind the Civil Rights Movement,” and we all did a lot of thinking about that topic. (It was a fantastic experience for all five of us.) One truth that we all came away with was the reminder of the reality of the daily grind of the struggle for social justice. Progress is often marked by the ‘I Have a Dream’ speech, and other momentous markers in time, but in truth progress is pushed forward only because of the constant, grueling, uphill battle, being fought in the trenches of everyday life, by individuals walking the walk and talking the talk, all the time. It is 5-year-olds on the playground, it is 9-year-olds in the lunchroom, it is 40-somethings in classrooms and boardrooms, it is all of us out there in the world and at home — it is all of this and a whole lot more which stands at the core of hope.

“Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable… Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.” ~Martin Luther King, Jr.

I think it is important for us to celebrate how far we’ve come, and also be somber in our reflection of all still to be done, as we pay tribute on this day.

And today I just want to acknowledge that we, as a family, are living out loud as part of our individual commitment to not being silenced. This blog puts us out there, and through that we’re often reminded of what we’re up against. At the same time, this blog — in the most basic sense — is proof in and of itself of just how far we’ve come. I want to just say that I understand all that, and I ‘get it’; I take it seriously, and I am humbled by it; and I appreciate our many, many loyal readers all over the world. Happy MLK Day to everyone who reads here!

MLK Center- sign


  • Silagh says:

    God bless you and your family for sharing the challenges and joys of just pure loving.

  • Sharon says:

    There are some people who believe in something, but do nothing. You, on the other hand, not only believe, but you LIVE it. Your children and your students are lucky to have you in their lives. You are an example of how to live you life as a role model. Thank you for your work with your children, your blog, and your students.

  • azeezah says:

    I like this blog very much and have been inspired to incorporate some of Heather’s ideas (and recipes) into my own family life. However, there is something that makes me a little uncomfortable a times — and it can come up in posts or responses to posts about issues like MLK day etc. Let me say that I am also an adoptive white mother to a beautiful brown boy, though I am in a mixed race marriage, so there are similar and different issues. I don’t think that white people should ever be congratulated for caring for non-white children. There is nothing “radical/progressive/daring” in this act. Just think of the dynamic it creates for the kids (and this is what we need to always think first – it should be always about them). They risk becoming fashioned into objects through which white people showcase their progressive values. And it is also unfair to the kids because every child should think of the care they receive as their right – not a gift, not something special someone is doing for them. They should not be burdened with being symbols of “radical” parenting. After all, white kids don’t have to be such symbols (well, not usually). Now to be clear, I do not think that the J-M’s have created this dynamic. Indeed, I recall something that Heather wrote at one point: that she feels privileged to be the mama of these children. That rung true with me, since that is how I feel with my son. However, I do think sometimes responses to them do foster this dynamic of “white congratulations” (for want of a better term) and it is worth thinking about the implications.

    • Heather says:

      Azeezah, thank you so much — I agree 100% with this comment. People often say things to us along these lines of how “lucky” our children are (to which we say emphatically, “no, we are the lucky ones”), and/or how “wonderful” it is that we’ve adopted the boys that we have (to which we try hard to make the strong point that we are humbled and honored and privileged to be their parents, to speak about how much WE are learning from parenting them, to talk about how resilient and awe-inspiring our sons are, etc.). But it is hard. It is in our face all the time. People react in so many crazy ways to us. The blog barely even scrapes the surface of it. We also have to constantly work at the other issue you bring up here — re: the “risk of becoming fashioned into objects through which white people showcase their progressive values.” On that point— it is complex– because I am truly proud of our family and what we represent, and I do see us as living proof of my values and what I believe is *right* (in a world that is in so many ways so wrong)… but, on the other hand, I need to constantly remember not to ever use my children and/or family as a political statement. That is sometimes challenging (especially when asked, pretty often, to speak to the media, or write something for a larger audience, or be interviewed on talk shows, or to write a book about our experience, or put advertisements on our blog, etc…. all of these things –and more– that I have for 9 years been saying ‘no’ to). I always try to remember what my mentor in graduate school once told me about his own parenting — he talked about how important it is to never use your kids to make a political statement, and to always put your kids’ needs before your own politics. I try to be vigilant about that, but it is hard. I have lots of complex thoughts and feelings, for example, about sending my kids to a private school (politically, I have major issues with the concept of private school… but I know without doubt that our boys need it, for a whole variety of reasons I’m not comfortable discussing on this blog, so we are committed to doing it as long as possible). Another example: buying nerf guns for my boys and barbies for my girl (ugh, don’t even get me started! ugh! ugh! ugh!). These are just a couple examples among many. All of this is very challenging and complex. We muddle through, trying to do our best. Our goal is always simply to try to do more good than harm. But we fail often, I am sure. Azeezah, I agree– sometimes the response to us does foster the dynamic of “white congratulations” (both on and off the blog)… and I try to proactively avoid that as best I can, and react to it when I have to. At the same time, our blog (and our life, for that matter) does often challenge many people to think… and I don’t want to stop making people think. So, we keep going. Thank you for reading, and thank you for your kindness and graciousness in giving us the benefit of the doubt in this. Not everyone does, so I deeply appreciate it. Hugs from Heather

  • Kathy Cassel says:

    Jasmine did her history fair project this year on civil rights–desegregation of the public schools which also included part of the Ruby Bridges story.

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