(Originally Published Here

The first time I learned of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was in the sixth grade. I was a Puerto Rican immigrant that had narrowly escaped being demoted a grade due to my language skills, and had been finally integrated with the mainstream, English-only classes.

It was the first year that I saw black history month be celebrated in earnest.  My teachers, all strong black women and activists in their own arenas, were active participants in the civil rights movement. It was their own connection to the movement that brought their passion, and each one of my educators had a personal story to tell.
The presenters spoke about how their families had stood alongside Doctor King during demonstrations, helped their neighbors commute to and from work during the Montgomery Bus Boycott and saw their churches bombed in consequence. And though I cannot remember the exact words, I remember how moved I was during those assemblies by the passion and love that these activists had to offer.
It was in college that I first read Dr. King’s “Letter From Birmingham Jail,” and I learned an important lesson: That change does not happen by the passage of time itself. It takes action, even if that action is passive and non-violent, as simple as writing a letter from jail. Dr. King was the voice of a movement that taught us that when it’s right, sometimes the simplest gesture can move mountains.
Now, at a time when schools are more segregated than ever before, or a simple Cherrios commercial gets backlash, race is still a much-needed conversation. And today, the fiftieth anniversary of Dr. King’s “I Have A Dream” speech, is another reminder it is a dream that is still in progress. It takes action, but what is more, it takes the desire to see your brothers and sisters, your neighbors and acquaintances, as equals.