Editor's Note: NaShonda Cooke, a Durham mom and member of MomsRising, shares her own family stories about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and what the holiday means to her. MomsRising is one of several groups holding family-friendly MLK Day celebrations this weekend and Monday.
I have some wonderful childhood memories. I grew up the oldest of five in northwest Pennsylvania. My mom single-handedly raised her children to be respectful to everyone and always give back. She had expectations and standards that we never questioned.
We were all good students who worked hard and brought home the best grades. Our attendance was near perfect as we rarely missed a day of school. We had to truly be sick to stay home. Education was a top priority.
Now that I am a mom of two beautiful daughters, I realize more and more that school was not the only place I was educated. My mother taught me so much more. She was the epitome of a mother who truly wanted the best for her kids and believed education was a way out of a life of poverty.
One of the things I loved about growing up was my mom educated us on things not always taught at school. The importance of honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was one of those things. I was in early elementary school when the holiday was passed on a federal level. States took forever to actually honor it.
However, years before that, mom kept us home anyway. I remember phone calls from school officials questioning why we were not in school on his birthday. My mom, who grew up in Montgomery, Ala., during the height of the civil rights movement never hesitated to respond. Of course, it wasn't an official excused day for us, but momma didn't care. The note I gave my teacher always read, “Please excuse my daughter from school. She was home as we celebrated Dr. King Day.”
We stayed home and mom would tell us stories of how her father, Dr. King and others were planning the next steps in securing equal rights. My favorite story is when she was running around a conference room and Dr. King offered her a donut to quietly sit down. I mean can you imagine someone so iconic saying anything to you?
I keep the tradition of honoring Dr. King going with my own two daughters. We watch documentaries, read books and discuss what we can do to make our world a better place. My favorite tradition is attending a family-friendly birthday party held in Durham in his honor.
MomsRising hosts the event at Northgate Mall in partnership with many other organizations. It’s become a community tradition, and the crowds grow every year. There are so many activities for families to enjoy together - storytimes, singing, Zumba, crafts and much more. There's something for every age group.
It’s a powerful example of Dr. King’s dream – people of every creed, color, race, religion, sexual orientation coming together in the spirit of peace and love. Seeing everyone together with the intent to help one another is the most beautiful sight you will ever see.
So, if you're looking for something to do with your family on Dr. King’s birthday come on out and party with us. I promise you won't be disappointed. And the birthday cake is sooooooooo good!
Here are all the details:
What: For the seventh year in a row, Triangle families are invited to celebrate MLK Day with a family-friendly birthday party for Dr. King at Northgate Mall in Durham. Join us for free English/ Spanish story times, kids’ Zumba, interactive activities, crafts, performances, service projects, and birthday cake as we celebrate Dr. King’s life and legacy in a way that kids can understand. This year’s celebration focuses on Durham's Black Wall Street, the legacy of the Green Book, and the role we all share in creating safety and welcome for everyone in our community today.
Please bring nonperishable food (especially muffin and biscuit mixes, healthy snacks, instant coffee and tea, and dry or packaged shelf stable milk); gently used children’s winter clothing and coats; and new underwear and socks to donate to local families in need who are served by Urban Ministries of Durham.
When: The party will take place on MLK Day, Monday, Jan. 16. It starts at 10:30 a.m. and ends at 1 p.m. with the singing of Happy Birthday to Dr. King and the sharing of cake. Storytime on the main stage will begin at noon.
Where: Northgate Mall’s Center Court. Northgate Mall is located at 1058 West Club Blvd., Durham. The best entrances are 4, 2, and 10 located on the theater wing of the mall.
Sponsors: This event is hosted by MomsRising.org and Northgate Mall, sponsored by Lango Kids RTP, Durham Community Martin Luther King, Jr. Steering Committee, Action NC, and supported by A.B. Fitness, Carolina Jews for Justice, CityWell, Durham Mothers Club, El Pueblo, Empower, Jack and Jill, Kidpower, Kids Voting Durham, Mama Afrika, Men of Honor and Ladies of Excellence from Eno Valley Elementary, Mocha Moms, Moms Demand Action, MooreMuzik, NC Child, North Carolinians Against Gun Violence, SoDu Parents Posse, Takiri, Village of Wisdom, Wildflower Cottage for Children
NaShonda Cooke is Durham mother of two, an educator and a MomsRising.org member.