King legacy a part of learning at namesake school

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The legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is part of the curriculum now taught at a South Side high school formerly known best for its championship, boys basketball team.

The legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is part of the curriculum now taught at a South Side high school formerly known best for its championship, boys basketball team.

Students at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. College Preparatory High School, 4445 S. Drexel Blvd., learn about the life of the young civil rights leader, who often came to Chicago to march for equality and justice.

“This is not just a one-time thing for us. We concentrate on teaching students and faculty about King’s legacy, students learn about him all year through African American history classes,” said Jeffrey Wright, principal at King high school. “I think it is important for students attending King and any school named after someone of importance to learn about that person as long as they are a student at the school.”

Students learn about Dr. King through books, speeches, documentaries, poems and guest speakers.

The idea to teach students and staff about Dr. King was born out of discussions Wright said he had in 2008 with students, parents, staff and the community about the 40th anniversary of Nobel Peace Prize winner’s assassination

“That’s when I noticed too much time had passed since his death and more dialogue was needed to bring everyone abreast about his life,” Wright said. “Many public high schools are named after famous people, but too often students graduate not fully knowing what these individuals stood for.”

Next month students and faculty at King will read and discuss the book “I Have A Dream: Writings & Speeches that Changed the World,” and will also engage in watching movies and documentaries that showcase Dr. King’s legacy.

Teachers began reading the book in November and were assigned by Wright specific topics to discuss with students.

“So if a student normally has math for second period instead of math they will learn about Dr. King from their math teacher,” Wright told the Defender. “The Dr. King teachings will be taught by all teachers.”

King students said they now have a greater appreciation for the efforts Dr. King made to advance equality.

Senior Sarah Taylor, 18, has attended King high school the last four years and said she has learned so much about the civil rights leader since attending the school.

“Dr. King was very persistent. He did not easily give up. I did not know a lot about his speeches until the school started playing them,” said Taylor.

During February at the school, various King speeches are played over the intercom for everyone to reflect upon his life.

“His method of peacefully resolving conflict inspires me to do the same,” said Ashton Foston, a 16-year-old senior. “I like to listen to music so I look up to musicians who exemplify the same traits as Dr. King. Artists like Kanye West sing about these things all the time.”

This year will be the first time freshman Ahmad Garner, 15, experiences the King history lesson taught by the school.

“I know Dr. King was a leader and a fighter and that he has done so many things for our race but that is about it,” he said. “It will be interesting to learn about him because I know there is so much more I do not know. His speech, ‘I have a Dream,’ is what I have heard the most but now I am learning he had many more famous speeches.”

To some students like sophomore Taylor Caridine, 16, King was a role model.

“When I graduate from college I want to do something with my life that will allow me to help people. Dr. King believed in helping everyone, not just Blacks, and that is the kind of role model I want to be to others,” Caridine said.

A big part of the success of teaching students about Dr. King comes from the support Wright receives from the staff.

“I have a wonderful group of teachers and staff here and that makes all the difference because this is a team effort,” the principal said.

Angela Davis has taught African American history at the school for six years and is the coordinator for the school’s “One Book, One King” program.

“Our staff is committed to this program and I have not had any resistance from teachers unwilling to participate,” Davis said. “So students are taught by white, Asian and Hispanic teachers about this great man.”

King was born Jan. 15, 1929 and was 39 years old when he died April 4, 1968 while in Memphis, Tenn. In 1948 he earned his bachelor’s degree from Morehouse College in Atlanta and was a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc.

Copyright 2011 Chicago Defender

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