By Kevin Kelly
Catholic Key Associate Editor
KANSAS CITY — On one side of the sign that Nativity of Mary student Grant Henderson made himself was “Nativity of Mary Has A Dream.”
On the other, a quote from the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.:
“Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”
They had the day off school Jan. 16, the third Monday in January when the nation celebrates the birthday of the civil rights leader whose life ended decades before any of the children were born who are now enrolled at Nativity of Mary in Independence.
But still they came that unseasonably warm morning to be there, to participate, to join the “Marade Parade Rally” to celebrate King’s life, and his legacy that they all knew very well.
Two dozen students from Nativity rode on or walked alongside parent Brian Murphy’s vintage 1961 International Harvester fire engine as the event wound it’s way south from Truman Road and the Paseo, east across 22nd Street, then south again to Bethel AME Church.
Although there were some graybeards among the hundreds who formed the blocks long parade, it was largely an event dominated and enlivened by the presence of youth.
The Nativity students came well informed.
“I wanted to be in the moment to reenact what he did,” said Rachel Yaros. “Yeah, it’s a day off school, but it’s also a day not to do whatever we want to do, but to be here today.”
“I’m here because this is a big part of history,” said Rita Hanch. “I want to be a part of what Martin Luther King was for all of us.”
For Peter Roubelet and other Nativity students, King’s legacy was not just bringing about the end of legalized Jim Crow segregation, but also the way he went about it.
“He proved that you can make change without being violent,” Peter said.
That commitment to radical change through non-violence cost King his life. Born on Jan. 15, 1929, King was assassinated in Memphis, Tenn., on April 4, 1968, before he reached his 40th birthday.
A short life, but an important one, said Grant Henderson.
“He got blacks and whites to unite,” Grant said. “And he died for us so that we could all have a better life together.”
Collin Murphy, son of the fire engine owner and driver, said he was proud to share his Jan. 15 birthday with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
“He worked for peace in the world, and he led marches for peace and for rights for all people,” Collin said.
John Murphy, Collin’s brother, said King helped free all people.
“He brought freedom to blacks and whites,” John said. “He taught us that we should respect other people whoever they are because everyone is entitled to equality, no matter what their skin color is.”
“He was non-violent like Gandhi,” added Tommy Davis. “He worked for civil rights for all people.”
The Marade Parade down the Paseo was one of several events throughout the Kansas City area marking King’s life and legacy.
Inside the church, every seat quickly filled as speakers reminded their audience that the fight for rights and human dignity continues. o