Martin Luther King was assassinated forty years ago (in 2008). This assembly for secondary schools commemorates his life and aims to teach pupils about his goal to eliminate inequality

Summary:

This assembly looks at the influence of Martin Luther King, forty years after his assassination.

Resources

You will need two readers.

Engagement

Reader 1: Forty years ago, on 4 April 1968, the black preacher and leader, Martin Luther King, was assassinated. The night before he had died, he had given a speech in which he had to compare himself to Moses, looking over to see the promised land but never getting there with his people, as Moses died on the mount overlooking it.

Reader 2: When King died, many began to despair that his dream of blacks and whites living together could be achieved. Some people rioted. Many others gave up on politics altogether. Some people believed that things could never change.

Reader 1: Martin Luther King’s widow, Coretta, and her friends, founded a centre in her husband’s memory, and encouraged people to come and study those tactics he had used. For many people, the example of Martin Luther King remained important.

The Burmese democracy leader, Aung Sun Suu Kyi, used his example to help her cope with the difficulties in her country. In Northern Ireland, the Corrymeela Community were inspired by his bringing of different Christians together to work for a common cause.

Reader 2: Many of the people who worked with King did pursue political careers. One of them, Jesse Jackson, ran as a candidate for president. Another, Andrew Young, worked at the United Nations and became mayor of the city of Atlanta.

Reader 1: When King’s campaigns had first started, there were few black politicians, and it was all but impossible for many to vote. Now, there are thousands of elected black politicians and the influence of black people in US culture has grown.

Reader 2: This year has seen success for Barack Obama, a politician who has a white mother and a black father. Many were surprised by his success, especially in some of those states which King had found very racist. The work that King and his followers had done all those years ago means that Obama could have a serious chance of becoming the first black president.

Reader 1: The sacrifice of others and the dreams of others have now begun to shape the world for better. King was never under any illusion that things would be easy and he realised that he might have to pay with his life in order to improve things.

Reader 2: Yet King’s dream is still a good one − that promised land might still not have been fully reached, but it is a lot closer.

Reader 1: What can you do to make the world less racist?

Reader 2: What can you do to make King’s dream a reality?

Reader 1: You don’t have to live in America to be aware that there is injustice and prejudice where you and I live. Do we add to these or do we live our lives in a way that improves others?

Reader 2: The choice is yours. Make the right one.

Reflection

Leader: It is not easy to work for some goals. They can take commitment and they can cost us. Certainly, Martin Luther King’s commitment to social change he knew might be costly for him and for his family. It was, but a good deal of that dream has began to be achieved. Yet the dream will need to be continually revisited as there is, within the human heart, a tendency to show prejudice to others.

Why do people show prejudice? There are many different reasons why that might happen. It might be about fear − people sometimes are afraid of others who are different to us. We need to realise that this fear is not necessary.

Some might be prejudiced because they have been taught by their family or friends to be prejudiced. We need to realise that we should treat others, not on the basis of what others might want us to do, but as the person should be treated − with respect.

There might be prejudice because we do not understand someone else. Take the risk to get to know them. It is easy to misread a person, to be negative about them and then realise that we were wrong. Imagine you are at a party. You might see a person who does not talk to you or anyone else there and you might think that they are arrogant, big-headed, looking down on people. They might actually be − when we talk to them − painfully shy and may well have felt unable to start a conversation as that was just too difficult for them.

The word ‘prejudice’ actually means to ‘pre-judge’, you make your mind up before you have had information. Yet how foolish this is! Judging a book by its cover can be disastrous − reading the book will be a much better way to make a judgement.

We need to overcome our prejudices, to admit that we and the people we love don’t always get it right. When we become open to new people and new ideas, life can become a great deal better. Commit yourself to living King’s dream.

Response

You may use this as a prayer or an affirmation:

May I be a person who lives In a way that enables others to live as free people. May I never judge someone by the way they look, But see to the heart of the person. A person isn’t a skin colour or a hairstyle But an individual that I can get to know,

What matters is their personality not what their face looks like.

I will live as a person committed To bringing justice, to bringing fairness To all. I will live as a person who will be Known as one who encourages all, who embraces The understandings of all types of people, Not one who will limit themselves to one type of person. That was King’s dream and I

Will live out that dream.

Amen

This e-bulletin issue was first published in April 2008

About the author: Cavan Wood

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