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Children open up about King, race and Obama

Cyril Josh Barker | 4/12/2011, 5:24 p.m.

As the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday approaches, the New York Amsterdam News recently took the time to speak with the nation's future leaders about their thoughts concerning the King holiday, along with several other issues.

A group of 10-year-old fifth grade students from Harlem's P.S. 76 Asa Phillip Randolph School of Humanities sat down with the AmNews to discuss their views about race, the community, King and President Barack Obama.

Jaden Foster, Diamond Harrison, Kadidia Tou, Cheyenne Smith, Genesis Santos and Telia Workman all said that while King paved the road to a post-Jim Crow society, there is still a long way to go, even with a Black president.

"[King] was a leader," said Foster, who has aspirations to be a basketball player and actor. "Racism has stopped, but some people still do it. Racism, it's like a boomerang. If you do it to someone, it can come back on you."

Harrison, who has dreams of being lawyer, said that King's mission was to ensure that all people be treated fairly and that all people should stick to the golden rule.

"We need to treat others the way they want to be treated and respect each other," she said. "People just need to listen to each other more."

All of the students recalled pleasant feelings in 2008 with the election of President Obama. Smith said she was especially proud of the moment that America elected a president who looked like her.

She said, "I was excited. He's the first Black president. I was so happy when he won."

When it came to issues that they consider important in the community, the students highlighted the environment, vandalism and even the recent loss of jobs due to the economy. They also didn't shy away from mentioning gangs, drugs and the violence they see.

In order to combat the issue of racism, the students thought to several ideas, such as talking about it, confronting the issue head-on or simply ignoring ignorant behavior. The students also suggested that racism is an internal issue for many who are suffering from emotional issues and are taking it out on others.

To help cut down on the negative problems in the community, Workman said the key is to discuss the issues.

"A lot of people just need to take the time to talk it out with other people. If everyone came together to share their problems, maybe we could find some solutions," she said.

As far a celebrating the King holiday properly goes, the students agreed that it's just a day off from school, but also a day to reflect on the civil right leader's legacy.

Suggestions ranged from reading a book or magazine about King to simply sitting back and appreciating the changes he brought about.

"Everyone should go to someone and tell them about Martin Luther King and what he did," said Santos. "People need to know and appreciate the work he has done."

Tou suggested sharing the holiday with family and doing a special presentation.

"You can write your own speech just like Martin Luther King's 'I Have a Dream' speech' and read it to your family," she said.