Wednesday, April 4, 2018
To mark the 50th anniversary of the death of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., students in Milwaukee Public Schools listened to a special announcement and observed 50 seconds of silence to think about ways to bring peace to the world. Below is a message from MPS Superintendent Dr. Darienne Driver.
April 4, 2018, marks a tragic moment in American history that forever changed the world. On this day fifty years ago, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated while on a motel balcony in Memphis, Tennessee. For more than a decade, he had been a spokesperson and leader in the civil rights movement in the United States.
I owe a debt of gratitude to Dr. King and those who stood alongside him and opened doors for my generation. Dr. King, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, spread his message through nonviolence and civil disobedience. He led the Montgomery bus boycott in 1955, helped organize the March on Washington in 1963 and stirred millions with his “I Have a Dream” speech, which still resonates today – and he fought tirelessly for civil rights all along the way.
Many of us who are alive today never experienced segregated drinking fountains or bathrooms, but my parents and grandparents did. Yet they remained steadfast in their belief that change was necessary and possible through social action, education and service to the community.
Fifty years later, what has been accomplished? As I reflect on that question, I am reminded of words from Dr. King’s 1967 “Where Do We Go from Here?” speech: “in spite of [decades] of significant progress, the problem is far from solved.”
While some injustices of the past decades have ended, systemic oppression persists in many new forms. A disproportionate number of African-Americans still live in poverty and lack health care, and the education gap pervades school systems across the nation. The incarceration rate of African-American men, especially here in Milwaukee, is staggering, and we continue to hear stories of injustices happening to people.
Progress takes time. Our country has come a long way since the abolition of slavery, but we have a long way to go. I am committed to doing my part. My mission – and the mission of the entire school district – is to prepare all children for success in life. When we can provide a quality, equitable education for each and every student, we are continuing Dr. King’s work and building a better world. We can do better! We must do better!
We can achieve equity in our lifetimes by always striving to do more. Let Dr. King continue to inspire us with his words: “We must keep moving. We must keep going. And so, if you can't fly, run. If you can't run, walk. If you can't walk, crawl. But by all means, keep moving.”
Today, and every day, I hope we will all carry Dr. King’s message of peace and equality in our hearts.
Darienne B. Driver, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools