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Posted on Sat, Jan 19, 2013 : 5:58 a.m.

U-M's MLK Day children's event to highlight King's dream 50 years later

By Danielle Arndt

2013 marks the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s booming civil rights address, delivered from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

In the 50 years since Aug. 28, 1963, when King first echoed “I have a dream” in front of more than 200,000 civil rights supporters, his dream has evolved, allowing others to share in it.

This evolution, or rather the “(R)Evolution” of King’s dream is the theme of this year’s University of Michigan Martin Luther King Jr. Symposium.

Annually, U-M hosts and helps to organize a series of events that commemorate the work and life of King. This is the 27th U-M MLK symposium.

In tandem with the symposium, U-M’s School of Education, School of Social Work and the Office of Academic and Multicultural Initiatives will welcome children in grades K-12 from throughout southeast Michigan to participate in a day of celebration.

Students throughout the state have MLK Day off from school. If parents are looking for a way to engage their kids in the meaning of the federal holiday, the MLK Children and Youth Day is exactly that type of opportunity.

Children are divided into three age groups and participate in skits, raps, poetry, storytelling, guided discussions, group projects and a range of musical performances to learn about King’s life and impact.

Program organizer and U-M professor Henry Meares said every year the event is similarly structured, but organizers try to bring in some different experiences that tie in with the symposium’s theme.

He said for 2013, the 50th anniversary, the goal is to “empower students to make decisions, negotiate and think for themselves.”

“The message behind the theme is how important it is for them to be citizens and to recognize the value of that citizenship,” Meares said. “… And ultimately, we hope to breed activists. … Because the only way to change your world, your environment, your neighborhoods is when you become actively involved.”

The MLK Children and Youth Day runs from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday, Jan. 21 at U-M’s Modern Languages Building, 812 E. Washington St., downtown Ann Arbor.

Meares said in year’s past, the event has attracted as many as 750 children from Detroit, Inkster, Ann Arbor, Romulus and other southeast Michigan towns.

Parents could pre-register online for the event until midnight Jan. 15. Walk-in registration is permitted. Learn more about the process here.

The theme of this year’s symposium was carefully chosen for the 50th anniversary of the “I have a dream” speech, as the website outlines. The university’s MLK Symposium Committee talked about how King’s message has evolved throughout the years to empower a population.

“The narrative of the speech shifted from ‘I Have A Dream’ to ‘We Have A Dream,’ as individuals and organizations worked to bring fruition to his vision,” the website states. “The goals of the 1963 March on Washington have evolved to include demands for health care for all and for equal rights for gays and lesbians. Though Dr. King’s speech centered on the African American population, it is now echoed by Native Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans, the poor, the disabled and all groups that are systematically excluded from the American Dream.

“The dream has evolved from equality to equity, from representation to valuing diversity, from tolerance to appreciation and from the right to vote to governing as the head of state.”

  • Read the MLK Symposium Committee’s complete theme statement here.
  • View a full list of symposium-related events throughout the year and other MLK Day events here.

Danielle Arndt covers K-12 education for Follow her on Twitter @DanielleArndt or email her at



Sat, Jan 19, 2013 : 10:47 p.m.

Martin Luther King wouldn't believe where the leaders of the hyphen americans have taken them in the last 50 where, sad but true. He would be devastated by the fact that 70% of hypen americans are born out of wedlock and that their unemployment rates have skyrocketed because of it. It is sad and probably too late to reverse............


Sat, Jan 19, 2013 : 12:23 p.m.

Apparently Washtenaw county employees have had their dream come true. If you had not noticed, they get Friday off work as well as the actual holiday which is Monday. Nice work, county government. While you are loafing on the taxpayers dime, the rest of us have have to stay open for business just to keep our heads above water.