BY Molly Congdon
CLIFTON PARK — The students of Karigon Elementary School gathered in the cafeteria Friday, Jan. 16, but they were not there to have lunch.
The tables and chairs were pushed aside as the kids filed in and sat side by side, crisscross applesauce on the tile floor. They resembled an assortment of patches on a colorful quilt as they gathered at 8:15 a.m. to listen to the fourth-grade chorus — already in position on the stage — sing in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
“Welcome to the tribute to Martin Luther King,” Karigon music teacher Kathleen Mason said into the microphone. “As we all know, we have a day off from school on Monday and if the country decides that they are going to have a day off to remember somebody then that must have been a very, very, very important person, right?”
Heads nodded throughout the cafeteria.
“We think about some of the words that we are learning throughout the year, our character words, such as caring, respect, responsibility and compassion,” Mason said. “Those are all the words that Martin Luther King taught us that were important for getting along with each other so people could make friends and solve problems without fighting.”
She explained how hard the fourth-graders had worked and that the beautiful songs they had prepared for this assembly were not just to enjoy in the moment, they were also to help in understanding the important messages that rest within the lyrics of those songs.
A time for peace
“When we are home on Monday, we can remember some of the reasons why we are thinking about Martin Luther King and what we learned from him,” Mason said. Then, she took her place at the music stand in the center of the room, turned her attention to the fourth-graders, raised her arms in the air and the concert began.
As their voices came together asking, “What Can One Little Person Do?” images of influential African-Americans such as Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks and, of course, King flashed on a projection screen in front of the onlooking students and teachers.
When that tune came to a close, the screen showed an illustration of small foamy waves descending on a sandy beach. The words, “A Time For,” hovered over the light blue ocean and the word “PEACE” was carved into the damp shore. “There is a time for peace,” the fourth-graders crooned. “Can’t the time be right now?”
Suddenly the voice of Martin Luther King Jr. thundered throughout the cafeteria as black-and-white pictures of him surfaced and receded, each with phrases such as “Be yourself,” “Let freedom ring” and “Do you have a dream?”
“I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal . . .’ I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”
The concert ended with “This Little Light of Mine,” and the chorus let it shine as they held the last note with their hands raised high in the air, like the warming rays of the sun.
Children like those who make up the fourth-grade chorus at Karigon remind us all not to forget the words and hopes of people like Martin Luther King Jr., people who made it their mission in life to push for equality and peace for all.
This holiday is not just for children to reflect and remember, it is for all of us as Americans to think before we act, to be better human beings to one another and to always dream of a better tomorrow.
BY Molly Congdon