I Have a Dream
Commemorating 28 August, 1963, when Martin Luther King made his famous speech
by Helen Redfern (revised, originally published in 2008)
Suitable for Whole School (Sec)
To show that ordinary people can speak out against injustice and make a difference.
Preparation and materials
You will need the following images and the means to display them during the assembly:
- Martin Luther King, available at: http://tinyurl.com/gks397z
- Rosa Parks, available at: https://tinyurl.com/y93cbrba
- Hairspray, available at: http://tinyurl.com/hxedvea
Can you imagine a time when black people were only allowed to sit on certain seats at the back of a bus? When black people were not allowed to vote in elections? Can you imagine a town where black and white children had to attend separate schools? Where black and white young people were separated at dances by a line down the middle of the room?
Fifty years ago, in the southern states of America, this is how it was. Let’s hear about three ordinary people who had the courage to speak out.
An ordinary clergyman, with a minister for a father and a teacher for a mother, organized peaceful protests and boycotts against discrimination. Here was an ordinary man who spoke out against the injustice that he saw. This ordinary black man delivered extraordinary speeches with memorable lines like, ‘I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama . . . little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.’
This man was Martin Luther King, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, and assassinated in 1968, at just 39 years old.
Show the image of Martin Luther King.
In the town of Montgomery, like most places in the Deep South, buses were segregated. On 1 December, 1955, Rosa Parks left Montgomery Fair, the department store where she worked, and got on the bus, as she did every night. As always, she sat in the ‘black section’ at the back of the bus. However, when the bus became full, the driver instructed Rosa to give up her seat to a white person. When she refused, she was arrested by the police. In protest against bus segregation, it was decided that from 5 December, black people in Montgomery would refuse to use the buses until passengers were completely integrated. For 382 days, the 17,000 black people in Montgomery walked to work. Eventually, the loss of revenue and a decision by the Supreme Court forced the Montgomery Bus Company to accept integration.
An ordinary woman showed extraordinary courage. This ordinary woman became known as the ‘mother of the Civil Rights Movement’.
Show the image of Rosa Parks.
Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks are real-life examples of people who had the courage to speak out against injustice. However, the next example is fictitious and is taken from the 2007 hit film, Hairspray. It’s Baltimore, 1962, and Tracy Turnblad, an ordinary young girl, is obsessed with The Corny Collins Show. Tracy auditions for the show and gets to appear on it – a dream come true! However, she becomes aware of the way that her black dancer friends are being treated and realizes that she has to do something. As she tells her father, ‘I think I've kind of been in a bubble . . . thinking that fairness was gonna just happen. It’s not. People like me are gonna have to get up off their fathers’ laps and go out and fight for it.’ This ordinary young girl brings about an extraordinary integration.
Show the image of the Hairspray film.
Time for reflection
Read the following lines, pausing at the end to allow the students time to think.
- Who will speak out against child labour?
- Who will take a stand against bullying?
- Who will stand up and challenge racism?
- Who will speak for those who have no voice?
Not me, that’s for sure. Who would listen to me? There’s nothing special about me. Nothing I say would make any difference.
We are all ordinary people. Fairness is not going to happen by itself. Ordinary people need to find their voice. Take a stand. Speak out. Make a difference.
‘The prayer of St Francis (Make me a channel of your peace)’ (Come and Praise, 147)