A lesson in King | NevadaAppeal.com

A lesson in King

by Maggie O'Neill
Appeal Staff Writer
Kevin Clifford/Nevada Appeal A children's magazine featuring Martin Luther King Jr. was one of many resources fifth-grader Spencer Rose, 10, used during a workshop about the civil-rights leader at Empire Elementary School on Friday.
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Starburst candy had been passed out to girls in Ingrid Frenna’s fifth grade class at Empire Elementary School on Friday morning, but none had been given to the boys.

At first, none of the girls seemed to notice, but soon they became aware of the sticky situation because of all the boys whispering nearby in inquisitive tones. A small undercurrent of unrest was brewing and the boys were upset.

“Then one of the kids said, ‘Why did all the girls get candy but the guys didn’t?'” recounted Cameron Arnold, 10. “I right away in my head knew why the guys didn’t get candy. (Ms. Frenna) was teaching a lesson about how African American people were treated by white people. It made me feel how they felt to be treated badly.”

Many of the girls in the class like Severina Hernandez, 11, were able to empathize with the plight of the boys.

“It wasn’t fair the girls got treated better than the boys,” she said. “Yes, I felt good because I got candy, but it was unfair for them.”

Friday afternoon, students spent 45 minutes in Frenna’s class discussing details of Martin Luther King Jr.’s life. Ten-year-old Manuel Beltran said that if King were alive today, he’d join him in his civil-rights cause.

“He’s the King,” he said. “He was a good guy and liked to do good stuff and he fought – fought – until black people could be with white people. I would’ve liked to work with him.”

King, born Jan. 15, 1929, in Atlanta, was a Baptist minister who championed change through non-violence. He was the leader in the Montgomery, Ala., bus boycott that began after Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat.

“That was not fair,” Manuel said. “On those buses, they wanted to move her from her seat because they wanted to put white people there. That’s why I would have liked to work with him.”

King was assassinated April 4, 1968, in Memphis, Tenn.

“He was serious and he was very brave,” said 10-year-old Heidee Griaud. “He would make speeches to people about black people and white people getting to be friends.”

She recounted a story of King when he was young and friends with a white boy, whose mother told him he couldn’t play with King because he was black.

“It got him very mad because he didn’t have anyone to play with anymore,” she said.

Several books about King’s life lined a portion of one wall in the classroom.

Students also watched a video about Ruby Bridges, who at age 6 was the first black girl to attend the New Orleans School System, after it had been ordered desegregated by a federal court.

“If (King) were alive today, he’d still be working for them all,” said Manuel.

— Contact reporter Maggie O’Neill at moneill@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1219.