January 16, 2018

“What movement tried to end racial discrimination?” The Civil Rights Movement
“What did Martin Luther King, Jr. do?” Fought for civil rights

As a Citizenship Class instructor, I have the privilege of sharing about the life and work of Martin Luther King, Jr. every session. Before discussing the 1960s, we cover the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln, and the Emancipation Proclamation. The focus then jumps to World War I, the Great Depression, and World War II before moving to Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement. The history questions for the Naturalization Interview do not hide the long history of slavery in the United States. Students learn early in the session that slavery existed in the “thirteen original colonies.”

“What group of people was taken to America and sold as slaves?” People from Africa

To help students understand “racial discrimination” and what life was like in the United States for many African Americans following the Civil War and during the time of Dr. King, we often look at the infamous pictures of segregated water fountains and bathrooms. I tend to avoid the darker pictures of lynchings and angry mobs, not wanting to rouse any post-traumatic stress in our refugee and immigrant clients.

In reality, they “know” discrimination in a much deeper sense than me, their instructor. Many experienced racial, ethnic, or religious discrimination in their own countries. The Nepali-speaking refugees from Bhutan, the Kunama refugees from Eritrea, the Karen and Karenni refugees from Myanmar and many other minority groups that we serve at the Center for New Americans fled or were expelled from unbearable conditions.



(Photo courtesy of AND JUSTICE FOR ALL)


Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote the lines above in 1963 from where he sat in a Birmingham jail following mass demonstrations of organized civil disobedience. Its truth rang loudly when it was first read, and continues to resonate reality today. I love my job and I love interacting with and learning more about my students, but their daily presence is also a stark reminder that gross injustices have occurred and continue to occur in many of their countries. I am grateful they now live in the United States without fearing for their lives. I am grateful for the rights guaranteed them and protecting them in the Bill of Rights and the Civil Rights Act of 1964, but I wonder about their family and friends not here…those still in the refugee camps, those still in their native countries. “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” My students remind me that we are all responsible for each other.

Written by Kadie Becker; Reposted by Heather Glidewell, ESL Instructor

“Life’s Most Persistent and Urgent Question…”

January 19, 2015

… is what are you doing for others.” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. For some, it is a time to remember. Some people may honor this day by taking a moment of reflection, some may post something about MLK on Facebook, and some may get a day off work to run errands.

This week, the LSS Touching Lives team of bloggers will focus on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Be sure to check the blog throughout the week to learn more about Dr. King and how we value and apply his work, words and action into our work at LSS.

What many may not know is that in 1994, Congress designated Martin Luther King day as a National Day of Service. It is the only federal holiday observed as such. So, that gets us back to one of Dr. King’s amazing quotes, “Life’s most persistent and urgent questions is what are you doing for others.”

For over 1,000 Sioux Falls area residents, they can easily answer that question by saying they mentor a child. What is your answer to “life’s most persistent and urgent question?”

Today, LSS hosted a try-it event with potential mentors. For those, many were off work and made it a day ON and not a day OFF. We worked on a project to create a poster of the world, kids could write their dreams and when it was all put together, it shows that we all see the world a little different, but we are all part of it. 20150119_121251

If you are searching for an answer to the question, additional opportunities to try out mentoring take place on Tuesday, January 20, 11:30-12:30 at Hayward; Thursday, January 22, 11:30-12:30 at RF Pettigrew and on Tuesday, January 27, 11-12 at Robert Frost. There is still room for more volunteers at each opportunity!

The try-it events are coordinated by a few of the several AmeriCorps members serving at LSS. This year, each member did some type of community service project to celebrate MLK Day. We are thankful for their passion for service!

Whatever your answer to what you are doing for others is, we hope you find joy in it and that it moves us closer to Dr. King’s vision of a “Beloved Community.” And if you are still searching for your answer, please consider mentoring a child. Apply today.

Post by Michelle Madsen, Director LSS Mentoring Services

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