MLK Today: Students' Thoughts on Non-Violence

Yo! Youth Outlook, Commentary, Swan Grae Posted: Feb 05, 2004

Students from Oakland Tech and School of Social Justice and older people of all races gathered outside at the Federal building in Oakland to remember Dr. Martin Luther King’s legacy.

As the War in Iraq continues without an end in sight and the body count continues to grow in Oakland and other Bay Area cities reflecting on why King was anti-war, and non-violent seemed to be right on time. The students read from King’s famous speech “Why I Am Against The War In Vietnam.”

The day in late January is cold and gray and the students are moving around to stay warm while they recite King’s timeless message of peace. If Martin Luther King Jr. was alive today I think he would be proud to see students of all races gathering together in the name of what he stood up for most; unity among all the peoples of the world.

Sitting there watching and listening made me think about everything that our great leader tried to accomplish before violence claimed his life. To me he represents love, because he loved his people enough to give his life so that future generations could accomplish their dreams without being told they weren’t good enough. He struggled to give us the rights to be anything we dream without discrimination.

To 14-year-old Dejon of Oakland Tech Dr. King means freedom. “He makes sense even now cause if it wasn’t for him we wouldn’t be able to be out here in the public speaking.” Dr. King used public speaking and peaceful demonstrations to help non-white people gain our basic rights as citizens.

Romany, 16, from Oakland Tech thinks King, “…is somebody that broke down barriers between races.” Dr. King made important speeches confronting and educating people about the racism issue which helped people accept and understand their differences. People who thought that being a racist was normal can see the pain and negativity it cause to others and might inspire them to change.

Dr. King symbolizes for Tech student Mike, 17, “One of the most significant moments of black history because he helped free black people.”

He knew violence begets violence and his dream was to have everyone accept and appreciate each other differences not to fear each other. Still we live in a violent world. How can we practice non-violence?

Ginjay, who is 15 and attends Oakland Tech suggests, “Organize small groups and talk about what is going on to prevent arguments and violence between people. People should not be afraid to talk and look at the options they have before they act and hurt themselves and others.”

Dejon feels that people need to commit to be different and “Not follow the crowd, be yourself and unique don’t follow a violent world and you won’t be violent.”

I wonder what Dr. King would say about the present condition of the African American community in Oakland? What kind of solutions would he have to stop black on black violence?

I think that MLK would start in jail. He would get business owners to open their doors to black ex-convicts and offer them educational services so that our people will not have to resort to crime to pay the bills. That could make the crime in Oakland drop dramatically. He’d be funded by powerful black leaders of today and the cause would focus on education. He would talk to us and give us advice and alternatives ways to make a living and raising a family. He would fight for support for young parents with children so they can have low-cost daycare while they work and educate themselves. He’d be a leader for black men who often look up to other men that are not showing them a positive way to accomplish their goals.

Dejon knows about the cycle of violence – he’s seen it in action on the Oakland streets. He feels that “Dr. King would let it be known that we are brothers and sisters and people need to stop trying to be all hard and gangsta. It makes us look ignorant like we need someone to go up against all the time.”

When we hurt each other we are really hurting ourselves. Ramanee is tired of the violence and is eager for change. “The situation in Oakland is chaotic and that isn’t good for our health. People say they look up to him but do the very thing he taught against which is violence. If you learn about him and his ideas and apply it to your life it can hopefully change your life if you listen.”

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