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Mequon fifth-graders pay tribute to King Jr.

Jan. 18, 2012

Mequon - Oriole Lane Elementary School's fifth grades led a school-wide assembly in memory of Martin Luther King Jr. on Monday.

With songs, a choral reading, a tableau and a play, the students took their classmates, teachers and parents through some of the important steps in Kings' development as a leader in the civil rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s. For the audience, it was an interesting look at King's life through the use of a variety of story-telling tools.

The choral reading pointed out some of the inequalities of the Jim Crow era, bus seats reserved for whites only, black and white children unable to play together.

Students moved scenery and props as they covered 24 years of King's life in a play, "A Time to Walk." It opened with a young King Jr. and his father attempting to buy shoes in the front of a shoe store in 1939. They left when told they had to buy in the back of the store. In 1944, a 15-year-old King learned first hand about moving to the back of the bus.

By 1955, a 26-year-old King learns of arrests in Montgomery over bus seats. When King challenged the arrests, city leaders vowed to arrest him in an effort to quiet him.

After Rosa Parks, a black woman, was arrested on Dec. 1, 1955 in Montgomery for refusing to give her seat to a white man, King organized a one-year boycott of the bus system, largely used by the black community and a great sacrifice in their ability to go to work, shop, and carry out daily life.

A year later, the boycott proved successful when segregation was stopped on city buses.

Fifth-grade teacher Demetri Beekman, in his second year at the school, said he helped organized the assembly. It was the first time the school marked the day. The national day of remembrance is always the third Monday in January. King's actual birthday is Jan. 15.

"In order to get something out of the day, I thought we should do something," Beekman, who is black, said. "The kids did the scenery, auditioned for the parts.

There are a total of 79 students in three fifth-grade classrooms. Beekman took charge of the play, while the other fifth-grade teachers, Margreda Kukla and Laura Egli, managed the choral reading and tableau, respectively. Music teacher Laura Dobrowits directed the musical parts of the program.

The majority of the fifth-grade students wore their class T-shirt while performing.

"Every year we have a theme in the fifth grade," Kukla said.

This year's theme, We all Fly Together, seemed particularly apt for a group presentation on the work of a civil rights leader who sought to make us live together without the barriers of segregation.

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