MLK Day, family style

On Sunday we attended Troy Area United Ministry‘s annual Martin Luther King Day celebration at Bethel Baptist Church.  My kids plus a friend sat through it very well, with half an hour in the child care room during the sermon, which was  very good!  It’s always a treat to hear someone grounded in their own tradition, and finding a way of speaking specially to it (in his case, “the Church”), while still framing the presentation in inclusive terms.  (When I have the preacher’s name I’ll bring it here.)

I brought my own tradition in a special way this year: Psalm 126 (Shir HaMa’alot), which I announced and then sang to Debbie Friedman‘s melody.  It was a small tribute to *her* life and legacy, which is as important in its own way to the Jewish community as Dr. King’s life and legacy is to Americans.  Then I translated extemporaneously.  I know it was a good choice and done well because I got some “Amens” after the singing, even before I’d translated, and more response after.  For those of you who haven’t been in a Black Baptist church, my sense is that vocal response tells you a lot more than clapping.

At the end we sang “We Shall Overcome,” as always, and I sang the last verse to my black and white children (me myself being white):

Black and white together,
Black and white together
Black and white together … in our faaaaaamily ….

Then we had cake and I kvelled about my brood (that means I was proud of them), and then we left to go out to dinner, as is our custom.

In the van I put on the Curious George CD, to which we were introduced as music before ever we saw the movie; friends sent it to us a few years ago because friends of theirs had made it.  Started at Track 10, which is a sweet lullaby, and I was delighted and surprised to hear my kids singing along.   They sing a lot but usually it’s Kidz Bop or pop radio.

Then Track 11 came on.

I can change the world … with my own two hands
Make it a better place … with my own two hands
Make it a kinder place … with my own two hands
With my own, with my own, two hands.

And there they were.  Singing along.  Singing quietly, intently.  And I thought — thought did not break in to say, “This is our own little Martin Luther King celebration.”

I’m going to make it a brighter place … with my own two hand
I’m going to make it a safer place … with my own two hands
I’m going to help the human race … with my own two hands
With my own, with my own, two hands.

That’s exactly what we want to be teaching them, I thought.  I bring them in part because we’re a trans-racial family and our black kids don’t have a lot of places to be in the majority; we had talked about that before we come, about how most people will look like them and I’ll look like the guest. My 8-year-old was tickled with that!  But I also bring them because Dr. King is one of our modern-day prophets.  His message, and a community of purpose which tries to put his message into action, needs to be part of our lives.

With my own, with my own, two hands.