‘Martin Luther King Jr. set down the foundation-now we just have to keep building

| 21 Feb 2012 | 10:55

    CENTRAL VALLEY-Chenelle Lurch walks the hallway, less than a week from Monday's national holiday, Martin Luther King Jr. Day. To some young people, the day may mean a day to sleep in late and a day off from school. But to 18 year-old Chenelle, the day represents something far greater. Lurch is one of the many Monroe-Woodbury High school students who identify themselves as black Americans. Friends with people of all races, Lurch is proud of her heritage and her ancestors who came to America from the Caribbean. Martin Luther King Jr. Day is a day in which Lurch celebrates, but still feels deep down, that she and other black Americans should be celebrating the life of the late civil rights leader, who won the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1964 and who was assasinated in 1968. "I know that I should be doing more to celebrate the day. On the day, I say ‘Happy Martin Luther King Day,' but other than that, we, me included, are not celebrating the day enough." Still, the high school senior believes that King's values are still alive. "Martin Luther King believed in not fighting back physically, standing up for your rights and in black unity," she said. "Martin Luther King was one of the ‘founding fathers' for black America." When asked if she believed if MLK succeeded in his mission for equal rights for black Americans, the high school senior paused and looked down before answering. "Yes, he did succeed because there is less and less segregation every year; soon it will hopefully be all gone, except of course for the few who will never see us as equals," she replied. Although Lurch says that there has been major progress since the MLK era where bathrooms were segregated for use by blacks and whites, she believes that America in general, and schools especially, are not teaching about those like Martin Luther King Jr. enough. "They just don't talk about him. The problem is, they don't talk about all the people of all different cultures who helped change things. "There are people from all cultures in America who have done good things for America, but we don't learn about them," said Lurch. Similar feelings came from two other students who agreed with Lurch's statement and showed resentment toward the curriculum which they say leave out, not only black Americans, but all people of all cultures who have contributed to America. "Martin Luther King tried to get equal rights for everyone and because of this, there is less discrimination today," said Devon Hughes, a 17-year old student, said. Kevin Gray, a Monroe-Woodbury High School senior, agreed. "Martin Luther King Jr.'s exploits will indelibly be etched in the annals of time, and we should give more attention to the movement he began." Even though Lurch has learned very about King and others who pushed for change "since the days of middle-school," as she puts it, it does not stop the young woman who considers herself a proud, black American, from supporting the beliefs of the late civil rights leader. "I wish there were more followers," she said. "I don't know how to go about supporting what he believed. "A lot would be different if more people tried to change things," she added. "Black people aren't doing enough to fight the stereotypes. Yes, some are true, but not all are true. But they are sitting around and not doing anything. Black people have to clean up their image. "There is nothing more that can be done legally - we have our rights, thanks to people like Martin Luther King, but now we have to finish and get respect," she continued.