Pre-teens talk Martin’s dream and modern day racism

From Amsterdam News:

In this day and age, words like “Facebook,” “Twitter,” “texting,” and “Skype,” are key terms in any preteen’s vocabulary. But despite the latest trends, the average youngster is well aware of the issues facing the country.

What’s going on in America is setting the foundation for the next generation of leaders of this country. With headlines that include the issues of the economy, unemployment and crime, the youth of today are going to have to live with the repercussions of the choices being made today.

In honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the AmNews sat down with students at I.S./P.S. 180 Hugo Newman College Preparatory school in Harlem to speak about what King means to them. We also discussed their reaction to current events and their thoughts on President Barack Obama.

The bright young students from the sixth, seventh and eighth grades said that they admired King’s work during his life but feel that racial issues still exist around them.

During the group discussion, the students talked about their outrage over the shopping frenzy that took over the nation this past holiday season. The also talked abut their displeasure over violent crime and terrorism. They were well aware of the tough economy and high unemployment rate.

Even though they see the problems head-on, their still fresh minds and innocence are carrying them through with hope for better days ahead.

“Dr. King’s dream is still alive, but when I go online to YouTube, I see a lot of people making racist videos,” said 12-year-old David Ocasio, who aspires to be a professional basketball player. “They don’t like Black people. It’s not good to bring back racism. Martin Luther King was a smart person and he changed a lot of things.”

Wish aspirations to be a writer, Selena Maldonado, 13, said that King taught people how to fight in a non-violent way and that he inspired others to do the same. She also had assuring words for Obama.

“In 2012, people have not come full-circle,” she said. “Not everything has changed. People are still filled with ignorance and judge others. I think Obama still has a lot to change. He’s doing it slowly, but it’s going to affect us in a good way.”

Djassi Julien, 13, said that during his reading about King, he was impressed by the teachings of Mahatma Ghandi that King learned about. The precocious student said he wants to become a physical therapist.

“Martin Luther King did an amazing job by standing up for himself. He was under the influence of Ghandi and kind of repeated the Ghandi era. In 2012, we still have a lot of things to work on but, slowly and surely, things will become better.”

Future Olympic swimmer 11-year-old Peter Lam agrees and thinks that King’s nonviolence tactics to make change started a revolution for those after him.

He said,” He did a good job because he stood up for his people and fought without violence. I think today we have a lot to work on, but we are doing a good job.”

Muslim student Jieegy Diawara, 12, said that she has experienced prejudice first hand because of her religion. Her faith is recognized by the hijab that covers her head. She addressed being stereotyped.

“People just look at you and think that you are a terrorist,” the future teacher said. “In 2012, people still make assumptions about other people just by looking at them. I think Dr. King was motivated by Ghandi even though there were people who hated him.”

With plans to follow in the footsteps of Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor and become a judge, 12-year-old Nicole Salazar said that racism goes on every day and that she finds inspiration from those who came before her to combat hate and discrimination.

She said, “Martin Luther King stuck to what he believed in. Death threats didn’t even stop him. I think racism is something that still goes on every day.”

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