Routt County based AmeriCorps worker Jenny Ackerson and Doak Walker Care Center resident Jean Galusha work on making a peace pinwheel Monday as part of the center's Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration.

Photo by John F. Russell

Routt County based AmeriCorps worker Jenny Ackerson and Doak Walker Care Center resident Jean Galusha work on making a peace pinwheel Monday as part of the center's Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration.

Martin Luther King, civil rights movement remembered

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Martin Luther King Day

Partners in Routt County school-based mentors Virginia Lamneck, Stephanie Rio and Ellie Glover interviewed close to a dozen skiers Monday at the Steamboat Ski Area about the civil rights movement.

Partners in Routt County school-based mentors Virginia Lamneck, Stephanie Rio and Ellie Glover interviewed close to a dozen skiers Monday at the Steamboat Ski Area about the civil rights movement.

— As Doak Walker Care Center residents celebrated Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Monday, 73-year-old Bettie Pierce recounted growing up in Philadelphia, Miss., before the height of the civil rights movement.

"I can remember when I was a girl that black kids couldn't go to school with white kids, black people couldn't vote or ride the buses with us," she said. "I remember thinking as a child, 'What's the big deal?' But I didn't say anything : and the reason why my family didn't say something was because we didn't want to get into fights with anybody."

Pierce moved from Philadelphia to Elmwood, Ill., with her husband in 1959. Five years later, three civil rights workers were murdered a few blocks from the home of her mother- and father-in-law.

"Some people in that area still don't want to accept what Martin Luther King stood for," Pierce said Monday during a program at Doak Walker honoring the legendary civil rights crusader. King, who would have turned 79 this year, was assassinated in 1968 at age 39.

The program, presented by three Partners in Routt County school-based mentors, featured a civil rights trivia contest and the chance for residents to discuss their experiences living through a time of change.

At the Steamboat Ski Area, school-based mentors Virginia Lamneck, Stephanie Rio and Ellie Glover also did their part to raise awareness of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

They spent part of Monday morning interviewing a dozen skiers about the civil rights movement. One question they asked was how people thought King would view race relations today in the United States.

The mentors, who also are AmeriCorps volunteers, hoped the conversations and thoughts they instigaged would make their way onto the chairlifts.

"That was our biggest goal - to get conversations going about what MLK Day means," Rio said.

King's birthday is Jan. 15, but the federal holiday is observed on the third Monday in January. It has been a national holiday since 1986.

Federal offices and Steamboat Springs city offices were closed Monday; Routt County offices remained open. Unlike many schools districts across the country, Steamboat Springs, Hayden and South Routt school districts operate as usual on the holiday.

"I think it is an important holiday that students should probably get the day off for," said Amy Piva, an American history teacher at Steamboat Springs Middle School.

Principals at Steamboat Springs public schools said they leave it up to individual teachers to determine how or if to address King.

Piva's eighth-grade classroom was adorned with a poster displaying King's famous "I Have a Dream" speech, but her lesson plan did not include King on Monday.

"We don't study civil rights until the end of this quarter, but when we do it, it's for a whole month," she said. Piva noted that Steamboat schools cover civil rights more in-depth than other school districts she's worked for, including districts in Texas and North Carolina.

"I did have it off in other places, and I know other teachers I've talked to think we should have it off," she said. "I know the kids are lamenting the fact they are here, but I'm sure it's for different reasons."

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