MLK Day 2018: Take a Knee for Justice!

The cover of the January 15 issue of The New Yorker depicts Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. kneeling on the sidelines between two football players—and former division rivals*—Michael Bennett and Colin Kaepernick. The image, “In Creative Battle” by Mark Ulriksen, depicts a sideline demonstration reminiscent of NFL players’ protests meant to bring attention to police aggression against black men and boys and society’s racial injustice. Both Bennett and Kaepernick have been outspoken critics of racial injustice in America and have sought to raise awareness through their civic engagement and philanthropy.

Ulriksen’s image suggests that—were he alive—Dr. King would stand, or, as the case may be, kneel, in solidarity with Bennett and Kaepernick. Like the nonviolent protests of the 1950s and 1960s, in which black men, women, and children sat at counters, on public buses, in restaurant booths, and classrooms where they were not permitted by law, their quiet act on stadium sidelines proved powerfully symbolic.

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On Spending Time with Family Over Winter Break

While reorganizing my daughter’s room over the weekend, I picked through some of her books on her bookshelf, browsing titles as I took a nostalgic trip down memory lane. As a Ninth Grade student, my daughter Claudia is as likely to download and read books on her phone or tablet as she is to thumb through the pages of a hard cover book. I reached the top shelf and pulled down one of her favorite books from her youth, Brian Selznick’s The Invention of Hugo Cabret. In Third Grade, Claudia and her friends read the book in advance of viewing the Martin Scorsese film adaptation Hugo.

I combed through the book and was captivated again by the book’s drawings. Selznick’s illustrations are part magical realism, part builder’s manual, and part science fiction; they are wholly astonishing. I remember as a child creating robots out of radios, mini-helicopters out of spare bicycle parts, and time machines out of car parts. I also remember the wonder and awe on Claudia’s face—and later my son Carlos’—as they read the book as young children, rooted in the world of young Hugo.

One of the quotes from the book reminded me about the ephemeral nature of time—an important character in the story. Selznick writes, “Time can play all sorts of tricks on you. In the blink of an eye, babies appear in carriages, coffins disappear into the ground, wars are won and lost, and children transform, like butterflies, into adults.” As we take a well-deserved rest away from The Bush School during the winter break, time may be the greatest gift we can offer our loved ones, even if they are clamoring for a new iPhone or XBox.

Spending time with our families, reading together, hiking, baking cookies, playing a board game, telling stories, or making crafts and collages creates lasting memories and slows the metamorphosis of our children into adults. Looking back on how much has changed, and how fast Claudia and Carlos have grown, I value the precious and priceless gift of time each day.

I am fortunate that during the school year I get to spend almost six hours a day with your funny, thoughtful, kind, and creative children. We will miss them over the winter break. Please take the next two weeks to enjoy their presence, their humor, and their creativity. Soon, like butterflies, they will transform into adults and fly away.

On behalf of The Bush School family, I wish you a safe and restful winter break.

Halloween Spirit

Halloween SpiritI have always approached Halloween with a hint of skepticism and apathy. As a child, I was very clear about the reason—I DON’T LIKE BEING SCARED. Sure, like most kids, I enjoyed gorging myself on Pixy Stix, Big League Chew, Nerds, Sugar Babies, Dum Dums, Sweeties, and Zagnut bars after my parents inspected them.

As I grew older, and candy became less of an attraction, my friends turned to silly pranks and ghoulish stunts meant to frighten our peers and wreak havoc on our neighborhood.  Again, this seemed to me to be destructive and SCARY, albeit for different reasons. Now, Halloween seems to give some adults license to publicly engage in silly or even debauched behavior. This can be a whole different kind of frightening.

The Halloween practice of trick or treating derives from the medieval tradition of “souling,” in which children would sing and say prayers for the dead in return for cakes. It is interesting how customs and practices morph (especially in culturally heterogeneous societies like ours) and take on new rituals and interpretations.

We are often uncomfortable with acknowledging death; it brings up memories of painful losses and reminds us of our own mortality. For many cultures, including the Mexican tradition of Dia de los Muertos, remembering loved ones publicly and being confronted with the inevitability of death also offers the opportunity to be grateful.

Like you, I read about the tragic deaths of two Marysville high school students at the hands of a fourteen year-old boy with feelings of dismay, anger, and helplessness. Each time I hear about a school shooting, I am reminded how precious and fleeting life is. Perhaps this Halloween we can spend a few minutes with our own version of “souling,” giving our heartfelt thoughts (if not prayers and song) for those who lost their lives last Friday.

Although I have never been much of a fan of Halloween, this year as I roam the streets amidst the costumed children I will be reminded of those innocent victims and generous souls who are no longer among us, and I will hug my children in gratitude before they head off to collect their treats.

Percy