Throughout the year, the YWCA of Carlisle strives to bring its mission of eliminating racism and empowering women and girls to all of its programs and services. Whether the agency is auditing its curriculum for preschool or summer camp or leading GirlPower and community conversations on racial and social justice issues, it is dedicated to passing along the dream and advocacy tools to the next generation.
As the nation paused to mark Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Robin Scaer, executive director of the YWCA of Carlisle, discussed the importance of his legacy and how the agency works toward ending racism.
Q. How would you describe the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr?
A. The legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. can be described as inspiring, relevant and nonviolent yet defiant.
Inspiring because he was a man whose eloquent, thoughtful and intentional words and phrasing moved a nation to consider the changes that needed to be made to bring about access and opportunity to black Americans. Inspiring because he harnessed the power of peace through action to showcase injustice and provide a pathway forward.
King inspired others to never give up, never back down and to never apologize for who you are no matter your background, race or religion.
Relevant describes King’s legacy in its most critical light. Without his leadership creating a ripple of conversation, attitude and behavior adjustments, the needs and rights of black Americans would have continued to be oppressed and stalled. His tenacity was necessary to force attention and consideration of the blatant discrimination negatively impacting a larger segment of our population and is still occurring today. His messages, teachings, quotes and actions are as relevant now as they were over 55 years ago.
Nonviolent yet defiant denotes the cornerstone of Martin Luther King Jr.’s work and approach to making change happen across our nation. He adamantly and with passion spoke out against hatred and acts of violence. He was a proponent of peaceful demonstrations to bring attention to the inequalities that existed (and still exist) in our society but never backed down from standing up and speaking up. He empowered others and encouraged people to do what was right. His iconic stature remains as powerful today as it was during the hardest and most-tested moments of the civil rights movement. When we mirror the unwavering conviction coupled with compassion as displayed by Dr. King, then we will help break down the barriers that still divide us.
Q. Why is it important for the nation to take a day to recall his work?
A. It is important that our nation takes a day to uniquely focus on the teachings of Dr. King in order to recognize an important figure in U.S. history and how our past informed our current society and continues to do so. His words and work remain important in fighting for the continued equity that must be realized to help marginalized members of our communities. We must not become complacent and view this day as merely another day off, but use it as an opportunity to think about and act on being positive change agents for the world around us. Once we begin to reflect King’s peaceful and positive teachings into our everyday lives, we will realize greater impact on helping others, respecting others and providing opportunities for others.
Q. How is the work continuing today?
The work continues today in a variety of ways from schools, churches and human services agencies such as YWCA Carlisle, honoring his memory and providing space and activities to address his ideas. The reality is, though, that 55 years after his famous “I Have A Dream” speech, we are still working to realize that dream’s full potential. With power structures and institutional racism still operating today and inflicting harm, it is imperative to continue King’s work and push for eliminating racism. Today’s social climate is riddled with racial slurs, racial codes, biases and microaggressions that continue to harbor stereotypes and suppress people of color. Until we get all Americans to consider the lens they look through when viewing their neighbor, we will not properly and effectively live up to the legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Q. What are some resources you would recommend for people to get a fuller understanding of his life and work?
A. Since much of our racial justice work and agency programs are centered on youth, here are some resources for parents to consider from an article in the Washington Post Monday.
For younger kids:
“I Am Martin Luther King Jr.” from the Ordinary People Change the World series, for ages 5-8
“I Have a Dream” book and audio CD with a recording of the speech. The book pairs King’s speech with illustrations, for ages 5 and up.
“Martin’s Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.,” for ages 5-9
“My First Biography: Martin Luther King, Jr.,” part of the My First Biography series, for ages 4-8
“The Story of Martin Luther King Jr.,” for ages 2-5
It is important to also consider resources beyond Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s life and talk to your family about race, including these resources:
How to Talk to Kids About Race: Books and Resources That Can Help, from Brightly, a book recommendation website with Penguin Random House.
26 Children’s Books to Support Conversations on Race, Racism & Resistance, from the Conscious Kid Library
Teaching Young Children About Race: A Guide for Parents and Teachers
Individuals can learn from following leaders on Twitter such as: Deray McKesson (@deray), Colorlines (@colorlines), Goldie Taylor (@goldietaylor), Black Youth Project (@byp_100), For Harriet (@ForHarriet), Black Lives Matter (@blklivesmatter), Marc Lamont Hill (@marclamonthill), Netta (@Nettaaaaaaaa), Yamiche Alcindor (@Yamiche), Ava DuVernay (@AVA), Shaun King (@ShaunKing), Samuel Sinyangew (@samswey), Bernice A. King (@BerniceKing) and the King Center (@TheKingCenter).
Q. What has the YWCA been doing to pass the dream on to the next generation?
YWCA Carlisle, now in its 99th year serving all of Cumberland County, has offered Kings Kamp for the past eight years to provide elementary school children an opportunity to learn about Dr. King and his messages. This free, all day event features local leaders sharing a variety of workshops to coincide with celebrating Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday. This year’s theme centers on Immigration and Our Refugee Neighbors and accepting differences in one another in honor of Dr. King’s testimonies.
“Our volunteers leave feeling hopeful after hearing the children share their thoughts throughout the day at the various sessions,” commented Mission Impact Manager, Myriam Pedercini. “Our youth are insightful, honest and willing to become aware of the value of our different backgrounds and cultures and how we can learn from one another.”
As Dr. King noted, “We may have all come in on different ships, but we’re all in the same boat now.” It is imperative that we teach our children about leaders who have fought for the struggles of others and how each of us, in small ways and big ways, can help change the world we live in making it more accessible, safe, respectful and equal for people of color.