Local Bilingual Charter School Teaches Children and Community About MLK’s Message

The 5th grade students of Fuente Nueva lead the one mile march for Peace & Justice in Arcata on Friday, Jan 14th. Photo by Morgan Hancock.

“So often MLK is portrayed in a very white-washed and sanitized way. I think he was portrayed in a very true way here today.” said Marche Hines, a mother of two children who currently attend Fuente Nueva Charter School. 

On Friday, January 14th, three days prior to the upcoming national holiday of revered civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, bilingual charter school Fuente Neuva hosted an event entitled “Dreams Coming Alive” in his honor. Students, parents, and community members alike were invited to come and participate and to hear the voices and words of many important black community members and organizations from around the county. 

One such speaker was James Braggs, an active member of Black Male Empowerment Network (B.MEN) and Black Humboldt, who opened the outdoor event at 8:30 am with a short land acknowledgement and prayer. Braggs expressed in both portions of his speech the importance of remembering history and learning from it. Reflecting on where we have grown, and being grateful, and reflecting on where we can improve, and changing it. 

“Remembrance is critical,” Braggs said later that day during a personal one-on-one interview with the Lumberjack. “It’s important to acknowledge the history.”

“King existed due to the work of thousands of ordinary people,” Braggs said as well, explaining how we often fail to see the bigger picture behind MLK’s events and actions. “[It] wasn’t just super smart politicians and leaders. It was mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters.”

After Braggs opening prayer, president of the Humboldt county’s NAACP, Sharrone Blanck, stepped up to the stage, greeted by the children in the front and adults in the back. Blanck’s speech revolved around the ideas such as the importance of diversity in groups and the freedom for everyone to live life as their full selves.

“We exist here as individuals and we have the privilege to be a part of groups,” Blanck’s said. “Who we are connects us to other people. I’m a black woman, I’m a Jewish woman, I’m a mom and a wife, I’m a friend, and all those parts of me I bring wherever I go.”

April Koepke, attendee and parent of two students, noted this particular speech as being her favorite. 

“[It’s] important for young people to know the values of working together and the equality of all.” she said, hoping that this speech will become an inspiration to her own children over the years.

Students, staff, and community members participant in a short yoga session before the start of the march. Photo by Morgan Hancock.

Other important speakers included Dr. Kintay Johnson, current director of CR’s Multicultural Center, Lorenza Simmons, youth coordinator at HC Black Music & Arts, and Mo Desir, co-founder of Black Humboldt. Each telling their own unique story of how they empowered themselves and the people around them in Humboldt county in the struggle to have their voices as black people be heard. Never being afraid to point out the changes that still need to be made and the injustice still faced by their community everyday, in a way that not only adults could understand but the children as well.

“[The event] let students of color know [that] they’re heard,” Hines said

Cybele Porpee, another attendee and mother of a student, found the event inspiring.

“It helped me review my own goals, hopes for the future, and engagement towards the community,” Porpoise said.

“Diversity, multiculturalism, acceptance, everything he taught is important,” she added.

The event hit its peak at 10:30, when students, staff, parents, and attendees alike were asked to participate in a mile march around the school, a moment to show students MLK’s often used tactic of righteous civil disobedience in practice and for both young and old alike to walk in the footsteps of not only him but of his many fellow protestors too.

Fifth graders led the march through the school’s neighborhood. Each carefully held the main banner heralding the beginning of the protest. Towards the caboose of the group were the younger first grade students, carrying their own posters with messages for peace and equality. Each student along with their parents, staff, and attendees stepped in sync crying out for the peace and equality of all, and the respect, dignity, and right to life of every black and brown person locally and nationally.

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