COMMENTARY: Is There More to Teaching and Learning Than Testing?

COMMENTARY: Is There More to Teaching and Learning Than Testing?

By Barbara D. Parks-Lee, Ph.D., CF, NBCT (ret.), NNPA ESSA Awareness Campaign

Teaching is a multi-faceted calling for many and an occupation for some, but how can teaching and learning effectiveness be measured without testing?

There must be some way—or ways—to measure what and whether students are learning, and teachers are teaching. Rigor, high standards, curriculum design, learning and teaching styles, and external demands all must be considered in any teaching and learning situation, regardless of location and resources.

As the teaching population becomes more monocultural and the school-aged population becomes more multicultural, teaching materials, beliefs, and techniques tend to rely too heavily on standardized tests and testing materials. In order for education to capitalize on the strengths and talents of learners and the skills and professionalism of their teachers, what kinds of additional progress measures might be employed?

Different kinds of professional development programs and materials may be needed to provide more sufficient and culturally responsive information about the teaching and learning process.

One way of assessing whether students are actively engaged in learning on a high level might be using multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary materials such as those in an original textbook of poems, shorts stories, and essays.

The book, Connections: A Collection of Poems, Short Stories, and Essays with Lessons, became part of a study in the Washington, D. C. schools and surrounding Metropolitan areas of Prince George’s County, Maryland, and Alexandria, Virginia, from 1996-2001. (Parks-Lee, 1995)

It addresses some of the challenges Gloria Ladson-Billings pointed out when she quoted Jonathan Kozol, saying that “…Pedagogic problems in our cities are not chiefly matters of injustice, inequality, or segregation, but of insufficient information about teaching strategies.” (Ladson-Billings*, 1994, p. 128)

Both neophyte and experienced teachers participated in a study that provided them with information, materials, and teaching strategies to employ with urban, poor, and predominantly, but not exclusively, African American youth.

The idea for the study originated with a concern that an increasingly middle class or suburban teaching force often seems unable to meet the needs of diverse students who are different from them in class, socioeconomic status, geography, ethnicity, and/or culture.

The Connections materials were intended to help address ways to foster a positive impact upon all children, but particularly upon children of color. In addition, teachers using these materials might also feel more empowered to think creatively and to utilize students’ strengths and talents as they incorporate high and rigorous interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary lessons and higher order thinking skills in order to increase academic achievement.

Effective teachers believe that we must produce and use materials that encourage students to be able to read, to write, to speak, to be creative, to understand, and to interpret what they hear and read. If students can develop these proficiencies, they may experience greater success on standardized tests.

Success breeds success, and if our students are to be involved learners and thinkers, we cannot keep doing the same things the same ways and then blaming students and teachers if standardized test scores are not optimal. There must be more inclusive ways of tapping into and measuring what is taught and what is learned. Standardized tests are but one way and should not be the only way to validate the teaching and learning processes.

There are three domains to teaching, the cognitive, the affective, and the psychomotor. The one that is not easily addressed by standardized testing is the affective domain.

As Sharon M. Draper says, “You must reach a child before you can teach a child.” (Draper, S., November 2002). The challenge comes when trying to measure the affective domain. However, affective success is often reflected in student attendance and behaviors that are involved, on-task, and diligent.

There is often a spirit of collaboration and cooperation between the teacher and the students. Fewer discipline problems are observed when there is a positive classroom community involved.

When diverse students are allowed to utilize their talents and skills, they often become self-motivated, because they feel affirmed, valued, and respected.

*Ladson-Billings, G. (1999). (Notes from speech delivered at Howard University).

Hampton Educators Learn  Details of 1619 African Arrival

Hampton Educators Learn Details of 1619 African Arrival

Thirty Hampton City Schools educators spent mornings July 23-26 learning the details regarding the first African Arrival in English North America from subject matter experts. Thirty Hampton City Schools educators spent mornings July 23-26 learning the details regarding the first African Arrival in English North America from subject matter experts. The initiative is part of an effort to clarify the details of the 1619 arrival so that youth of Hampton, Virginia, and the nation learn the facts of this pivotal occurrence in American history.

As witnessed and recorded by John Rolfe, the first tobacco planter in the Virginia colony, on August 20, 1619, the White Lion entered the Chesapeake Bay, docked at Point Comfort (present day Hampton) with Africans from the country Angola, of the Bantu culture. They spoke the languages of the Kimbundu and Kikongo. Many were literate and hailed from highly organized societies.

Two of those Africans, named Antoney and Isabell, became servants of Captain William Tucker, Commander of the fort at Point Comfort. Around 1623 or 1624, the union of Isabell and Antoney birthed the first African child in English North America, named William Tucker. The other arriving Africans were interspersed within the Virginia colony, from Elizabeth City County to Jamestown.

Hampton 2019 Commemorative Commission Co-Chairs Dr. Colita Fairfax and Lt. Col. (Ret.) Claude Vann, were among the discussion leaders.

Parkland Students Are Still Going Strong. Their Message to Students: Vote

Parkland Students Are Still Going Strong. Their Message to Students: Vote

They came from all over Virginia, battling gray weather and buckets of rain, to see the faces of a student-driven movement that shows few signs of stopping.

They came by the hundreds, young people and older ones—at least a third of the attendees were parents, judging by a show of hands—to hear first-person testimonies from the survivors of the mass shooting in February at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. They came to learn how they might be involved in ending gun violence. In a few cases, they came to protest.

The message they got from the speakers at this traveling town hall, over and over, was this: Vote.

As it matures over the course of its months-long Road to Change tour through the United States this summer, the March for Our Lives movement’s broad goal of ending gun violence is increasingly focused on voting, one of the most essential of all civic responsibilities.

The rally here on Thursday was the 24th since the tour hit the road in June. It took place a stone’s throw from Virginia Tech, the site of the nation’s second deadliest school shooting, in 2007, which left 33 dead.

Read full article click here, may require ED Week subscription

Students from Once-Segregated Norfolk School Change the Conversation on Race

Students from Once-Segregated Norfolk School Change the Conversation on Race

By Leonard E. Colvin,Chief Reporter

In February 1959, Patricia Turner and her brother James Turner, Jr., walked through the front door of the Norview Middle School and into the history books.

They were  two of the Norfolk 17,  the first Black students to desegregate six Norfolk public schools.

The Turners and the other 15 students made history after months of resistance by the city of Norfolk and the state of Virginia, each refusing to comply with the U.S. Supreme Court’s  decision five years earlier that segregated public schools were illegal.

During her time at Norview Middle and then Norview High School, Turner, like the 16 other Black students, endured isolation, verbal abuse and taunts inflicted by White students who were venting  hatred and anger inspired by a resentful dominant culture resistant to their history-making experience.

In 1963,  despite these challenges,  Pat Turner would graduate from Norview High School and set herself emotionally to never look back.

She attended business college, became an accountant, married briefly and  worked for Norfolk Public Schools for two decades.

Due to an Honorary Doctorate degree awarded by Old Dominion University, “Dr. Turner”  is now seeking to secure an “earned” ODU doctorate.

Over the past five years, although she may have succeeded in “erasing”  most  of the bad memories of long ago, she has managed to secure some emotional and moral closure in a way she could have little predicted.

Today, she regularly joins a group of her White former classmates for lunch at  Bubba’s Seafood Restaurant on Shore Drive In Virginia Beach.

As she did when she was in school with them, Turner is the lone Black sitting amidst the remaining White female members of the Norview Senior Class of 1963.

“I  sit and I am mostly quiet,” said Turner, who admits she is introverted. “During the lunches, we  do not talk about the past all the time.  But it has come up.

“I have been  able to educate them from the perspective of a member of the Norfolk 17, as they have educated me about what was going on with them back then.”

Turner and the  other 16 Black children desegregated those all-White schools during the fall of 1958 by federal law. But rather than admit them, the city closed all of the White schools which were targeted to be desegregated. It was the state law.

While the schools were closed,  many of the White  high school seniors  went to work or the military.  The traditional senior year transition to adulthood and college was erased.

Since no White students applied to attend any of the all-Black schools,  they remained opened.

“They (the White students at Norview) were told by their parents that we (the Norfolk 17)  were trying to take their schools and deny them an education,” Turner said. “So they were punishing us.   It was not our fault. Nor was it their fault, it was the city … the politicians  which closed the schools.

“I explained to them that we were just 17 little Black kids, trying to get an education” Turner said. “Segregation was illegal. But they did not understand that. Their parents  did not explain to them, why and what we were doing, until I explained it all. I also told them about me as a person.  Now they know.”

Turner said her  interaction with her White classmates started five years ago  when plans for the class of 1963’s 50th  reunion were being devised. She was approached to join them during the planning session in Nags Head.

“I was so surprised,” Turner  recently told the Guide. “Initially I  was very leery … afraid. I had never had any contact  with them since leaving high school. This is why I had one of my friends accompany me to that first meeting. Then I attended by myself.”

Turner said after 50 years, her classmates had aged, as she did. She had no idea of how they looked  back in  the day; she never had the chance.

But they knew she was the “Black Girl” who was walking through a sea of White hatred and anger.

“So if they were any of the ones who said or did nasty things to me back then, I could not identify them,” Turner said. “None of them have admitted they did.”

“But there was  one.  A woman who died recently,” Turner said, “and she would come up…hug me… start crying so hard…she would wet up my clothes.  I do not know  what was on her heart…to make her feel so bad. But I had to tell some of the other classmates, to tell her that all of the crying and hugging was not necessary.  She did stop.”

Turner said because she sought to educate her White classmates and explain to them, her role as  a  member of the Norfolk, 17, her classmates have  made attempts to redeem themselves with small gestures.

Turner explained she was an “outsider” as a Black child  attending Norview Middle and High schools. She had no social life.

She also did not interact with the Black  students at Ruffner Middle or Booker T. Washington High schools.

So she was a “outsider,” too, from the Black community, as well.

At one of the Norview class reunions, she was made the honorary Homecoming Queen.

Also,  at one of the luncheons, her classmates organized a birthday party for her.

“I did not have a normal childhood after I entered Norview Middle School,”  Turner said. “I could not join a club, be a cheerleader, have a boyfriend or enjoy lunch time talking  to friends.  My childhood was stolen. I have reclaimed something from even people who thought I was trying to take something  from them. But like them, all I wanted was a good education and to enjoy life.”

Today, only 11 of the Norfolk 17 are still alive.   Like the others, Turner despite her efforts to “move on” from her experiences at

Norview Middle and High schools, she is reminded of those experiences.

Over the years she has been reminded often of the chapter she wrote in Norfolk’s and the nation’s history.

Although she believed it, the idea of Pat Turner being an  “outsider” in the view  of the Black and most of the White community of Norfolk, has been erased long ago, as she  is  frequently reminded, in word, deed and image.

The spotlight will be even brighter early next year, when Norfolk will observe the 60th anniversary of the Norfolk 17 who etched their legacy in the city’s, Virginia’s and the nation’s history books.

NNPA, New Journal and Guide Host National Black Parents’ Town Hall in Norfolk

NNPA, New Journal and Guide Host National Black Parents’ Town Hall in Norfolk

By Stacy M. Brown (NNPA Newswire Contributor)

The National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) recently hosted its second National Black Parents’ Town Hall Meeting on Educational Excellence at the Gethsemane Community Fellowship Church in Norfolk, Va.

The event, which was livestreamed on Facebook and jointly hosted across the country in Los Angeles, kicked off the NNPA’s annual convention.

Panelists for the event, where questions and comments were discussed regarding the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), were Linda Langley Davis, the director of educational services for Hampton Roads, Inc.; Fred Smoot, a former Washington Redskins cornerback and motivational speaker; Rev. Dr. Kirk T. Houston, the founder and pastor of Gethsemane Community Fellowship Church; and Deidre Love, the executive director of the nonprofit Teens with a Purpose.

Dr. Elizabeth Primas, the program manager for the NNPA ESSA Public Awareness Campaign, moderated the panel.

“I’m a product of the Norfolk public schools and I’m also the mother of a child educated in the public school system and, as someone who’s taught for 33 years, I know the struggles teachers endure and it’s an uphill battle,” Davis said.

Each of the panelists acknowledged that teachers wear many hats, should be paid more, and all need the support of parents.

Smoot, who’s now a motivational speaker, said its important that educators realize that each student is different.

“Every child succeeds when they are taught in a different way. We have to stop the exit test and find out in the beginning what they need,” he said.

Houston, who once served on the local school board, said everyone, including parents, need to be educated about ESSA.

“One thing I learned on the school board was how little I know about education policies,” he said. “We need parental enlightenment and stakeholder participation,” Houston said.

Love, whose students gave an inspiring spoken-word performance before the town hall, said that the voice of the youth must be heard.

“Our mission is to create that platform to encourage young people to use their voice,” Love said.

The panelists and moderator all noted the sobering statistics facing African American youth, including that 45 percent of Black students attend high-poverty schools compared with just 8 percent of Whites.

The high school graduation rate of Black students is 76 percent, the second lowest among all ethnic groups, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

“In 40 percent of U.S. schools, there are no teachers of color on staff,” according to a report by the Center for American Progress. “As a result, White students—and teachers—in these schools may miss opportunities to question assumptions about race, class, and privilege that they might encounter in their communities…”

As one parent at the meeting noted, school segregation today is worse than it was during the Civil Rights Movement.

One young person in attendance said that sobering fact has made life difficult for him.

“In some schools, I feel very uncomfortable, because I’m like the only Black person in the school while other schools I feel comfortable where teachers are African American, and they can relate to me,” said 11-year-old Doran Glass. “At school, I feel like I’m being looked at as a criminal.”

Glass’ sobering dialogue shifted the discussion of the meeting.

“That was a brave thing for this young man to stand up and be heard,” said NNPA President Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr.

Another young person asked what could be done to encourage more students to participate in discussions about education.

“The question came up about how to get young people more involved in events like this and the right answer is to ask that young person who asked that question is: what is it that he thinks should be done,” said Gregory Huskisson, the vice president of content and audience for the Wave newspaper in Los Angeles. “We need to do a better job of getting young people involved. The second thing is what kind of structural thing can you build into the program that would be more enticing for young people.”

Huskisson said it was a privilege to take part in the town hall from Los Angeles.

“The issue is critical to organizations like the Wave and the NNPA and we need to be focused on getting together and collaborating on getting solutions, because we are solutions-based organizations and we’re involved in a lot of community-based programs and projects,” Huskisson said. “Anytime the NNPA creates programming that’s focused on solutions in our community, especially ESSA, we are all about it and I applaud Dr. Chavis and the NNPA. I look forward to the next ESSA town hall.”

Stacy Brown is an NNPA Newswire Contributor and co-author of “Michael Jackson: The Man Behind the Mask: An Insider’s Story of the King of Pop.” Follow Stacy on Twitter @stacybrownmedia.

This article was originally published at BlackPressUSA.com.

2019 Georgia Teacher of the Year named

2019 Georgia Teacher of the Year named

May 19, 2018 – Allison Kerley Townsend, a third-grade teacher at Barnwell Elementary School in Fulton County, is the 2019 Georgia Teacher of the Year, State School Superintendent Richard Woods announced tonight. As Georgia Teacher of the Year, Townsend will serve as an advocate for public education in Georgia.

“It is very clear to me that Allison Kerley Townsend is a teacher who walks into her classroom every day with her focus in exactly the right place: what do these students in front of me need to learn, and how can I help them learn it?” State School Superintendent Richard Woods said. “Then she brings all of her creativity, ingenuity and skill to the fore to accomplish that goal. I am honored to recognize her as the 2019 Georgia Teacher of the Year and look forward to working with her to tell the best story I know – the story of Georgia’s public schools, and the lives changing within them every single day.”

Townsend graduated from Clemson University in 2012 with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education. Since then, she has taught Pre-K, third-, fourth-, and fifth-grade students.

As a teacher, Townsend strives to give each child a voice in their learning, and inspires them to grow beyond “engagement” to “ownership.” She came away from her time as a Pre-K teacher with the conviction that all children start out as curious and excited learners, and that her goal as an educator should be to nurture their passion for learning.

“Some people believe that children are the ‘leaders of tomorrow,’” Townsend said. “I like to challenge this idea. We cannot ignore the incredible impact children can have on the world today, if we let them. My mission is to help students take ownership of their learning and have an impact beyond the classroom…whether they are Skyping a scientist across the country, blogging about how they believe we should combat pollution, or sharing the inspiring music videos we create as a class.”

Townsend is also dedicated to having an impact on students and teachers beyond her own classroom and making her mark on education at the global level. From presenting at conferences to using Twitter as a window into her classroom, she has made connections with educators all over the world.

“I have helped a teacher in North Carolina design an authentic project-based learning unit for her students based on nutrition and fractions,” Townsend said. “I have Skyped with a teacher in Virginia to teach him how to implement student-led conferences. I have even had a teacher across the world in Vietnam reach out to me to let me know that she shared my students’ personal mission statements with her class, and that inspired them to write their own, too. I am passionate about inspiring students and teachers around the world and believe that our impact does not have to wait for ‘tomorrow.’ Every single one of us can help change the world today.”

As Georgia Teacher of the Year, Townsend will represent Georgia teachers by speaking to the public about the teaching profession and potentially conducting workshops and programs for educators. She will also participate in the competitive selection process for the 2019 National Teacher of the Year.

Click here to learn more about Georgia’s Teacher of the Year program.

 

2019 Georgia Teacher of the Year Finalists

Allison Kerley Townsend, 2019 Georgia Teacher of the Year, third grade, Barnwell Elementary School, Fulton County Schools

Maleah Stewart, speech-language pathologist, 2019 Runner-Up, North Forsyth Middle School, Forsyth County Schools

Shaylen Dixon, third grade, Peachtree City Elementary School, Fayette County Schools

Dr. Doug Doblar, fourth and fifth grade mathematics and science, R.D. Head Elementary School, Gwinnett County Schools

Dr. Stefan Lawrence, English, George Washington Carver High School, Muscogee County Schools

Nancy Rogers, English, Thomas County Middle School, Thomas County Schools

Ike Thompson, English/gifted, Veterans High School, Houston County Schools

Melanie Thompson, science, Georgia Academy for the Blind, State Schools

Stephanie Vidrine, mathematics, Woodstock Middle School, Cherokee County Schools

Kayla Yeargin, mathematics, Troup High School, Troup County Schools

*Other than the Teacher of the Year and Runner-Up, finalists are listed in alphabetical order by last name​

Release Date: 5/19/2018
Civil Rights Groups to Congress: Betsy DeVos is Approving Plans That Violate ESSA

Civil Rights Groups to Congress: Betsy DeVos is Approving Plans That Violate ESSA

Education Week logoU.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is approving plans that fly in the face of the Every Student Succeeds Act’s protections for vulnerable children, according to more than a dozen civil rights groups, including the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.

The groups sent a letter Tuesday to Democratic and Republican leaders on the House and Senate education committees asking them to tell DeVos to stop approving “unlawful” plans.

“We call on you to fulfill your role in ESSA’s implementation and to correct the Department of Education’s flawed approval of state plans that do not comply core equity provisions of the law,” the groups wrote to Sens. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Patty Murray, D-Wash., as well as Reps. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., and Bobby Scott, D-Va.

This is far from the first time that the civil rights community—and Democratic lawmakers—have questioned DeVos’ approach to plan approval. The Alliance for Excellent Education, one of the 17 groups that signed off on the letter, put together a legal brief questioning whether some of the plans that DeVos has approved meet ESSA’s requirements. And both Murray and Scott have written letters to DeVos saying she is flouting the law.

The four leaders plan to meet with DeVos at some point to discuss Democrats’ concerns with plan approval.

Read the full article here: May require an Education Week subscription.

Nansemond-Suffolk NAACP  Honors Exceptional Youth At 52nd Annual Freedom Fund Celebration

Nansemond-Suffolk NAACP Honors Exceptional Youth At 52nd Annual Freedom Fund Celebration

SUFFOLK

On February 11, 2018, the members of the Hampton Roads community gathered in Suffolk to celebrate Nansemond-Suffolk Branch’s Freedom Fund Banquet. This year’s theme was: Maximizing the Moment, Laying Hold of the Future: Honoring Our Exceptional Youth.

Before a standing room only crowd, the keynote speaker was the impressive young leader, Ms. Gerica Goodman, policy director with Virginia21. She reminded the guests and audience how important it is to be engaged, to get involved in your community, and let your voices be heard.

The Suffolk NAACP hosted 20 well-deserving youth, their parents, family, and the community at-large. Each youth honoree received a medallion of excellence, a certificate of accomplishment and a stipend. Several members of the Hampton Roads legislative delegation were in attendance, including the Honorable Congressmen Donald McEachin and Bobby Scott. Many city officials attended as well.

Two of Hampton Roads’ outstanding business people. Rillco, Inc., and TimeAway, Inc. received he President’s Award for Small Minority-Owned Business Excellence.

NAACP President Seneca Bock said, “As we endeavor to increase economic and social justice, we always encourage small minority-owned business development, entrepreneurship and innovation. These two companies continue to lead the way for many to come behind them.”

The post Nansemond-Suffolk NAACP Honors Exceptional Youth At 52nd Annual Freedom Fund Celebration appeared first on The New Journal and Guide .

Delegate seeks to add more mental health counselors to public high schools

Delegate seeks to add more mental health counselors to public high schools

the Legacy Newspaper logoby Liza David

THE LEGACY NEWS – A Prince William County legislator is promoting a bill to add more mental health counselors in public high schools. 

The bill, HB 252, proposed by Del. Elizabeth Guzman, D-Prince William, would that each student board employ one mental health counselor for every 250 high school students in the local school division.

Del. Elizabeth Guzman

In her district of Prince William County, Guzman said the average case load for a school counselor is between 450 and 500 students, but the counseling process involves more than just those students.

“When counselors help children, it’s not like they are serving one person,” Guzman said. “Many times we need to involve family members and friends as part of helping a person to become successful in life.”

Guzman said that if counselors have a smaller caseload, “they could help the parents to become a support system for the children.”

Guzman said being a mother of four children in the public school system gives her an inside perspective to the challenges public schools have faced throughout the years.

“Any time there was a school budget cut, the fields that were affected in the public education system were special education, school counselors, psychologists, [and] social workers,” Guzman said.

Guzman hopes to pass this bill with the help of her professional knowledge as a social worker. According to her campaign website, Guzman worked in the public sector for 10 years, most recently as the division chief for administrative services for the Center for Adult Services for the City of Alexandria. She also holds master’s in both public administration and social work.

On Jan. 10 Guzman’s bill was endorsed by both the Virginia Education Association and the Virginia Counselor Association. She said she also met with teachers and counselors before her campaign.

Becky Bowers-Lanier is the advocacy consultant for the VCA, and said, “our counselors are most supportive of her bill, [and] we will actively support it.”

Guzman’s bill requires high schools to meet the ratio of one counselor to every 250 students, but Bowers-Lanier said the VCA, “would love to have the ratio of one to 250 throughout K-12.”

“When these children are in high school they have to be ready to face real life,” Guzman said, “and if they don’t get the right support while they’re in school, there’s not a hopeful future for them.”

Bowers-Lanier said in 2016 the Virginia Board of Education proposed a revision of the standards of equality, “to tighten the ratio of counselors in K-12 to one to 250.” However, adding more counselors to high schools, “has a pretty high fiscal impact, and so it was not taken forward to the General Assembly last year.”

The VCA hopes to draw funds, “from the at-risk grant program to support the payment of the counselors,” Bowers-Lanier said.

Bowers-Lanier said at-risk funding is part of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), so additional counselors would be paid for with federal funds. Bowers-Lanier said that ESSA applies to students from low socioeconomic backgrounds, meaning they are considered high-risk and therefore in need of counselors.

How Stevie Wonder helped create Martin Luther King Day

How Stevie Wonder helped create Martin Luther King Day

the Legacy Newspaper logoTHE LEGACY NEWSPAPER — On the evening of April 4, 1968, teen music sensation Stevie Wonder was dozing off in the back of a car on his way home to Detroit from the Michigan School for the Blind, when the news crackled over the radio: Martin Luther King Jr. had just been assassinated in Memphis. His driver quickly turned off the radio and they drove on in silence and shock, tears streaming down Wonder’s face.

Five days later, Wonder flew to Atlanta for the slain civil rights hero’s funeral, as riots erupted in several cities, the country still reeling. He joined Harry Belafonte, Aretha Franklin, Mahalia Jackson, Eartha Kitt, Diana Ross and a long list of politicians and pastors who mourned King, prayed for a nation in which all men are created equal and vowed to continue the fight for freedom.

Wonder was still in shock—he remembered how, when he was five, he first heard about King as he listened to coverage of the Montgomery bus boycott on the radio. “I asked, ‘Why don’t they like colored people? What’s the difference?’ I still can’t see the difference.” As a young teenager, when Wonder was performing with the Motown Revue in Alabama, he experienced first-hand the evils of segregation—he remembers someone shooting at their tour bus, just missing the gas tank. When he was 15, Wonder finally met King, shaking his hand at a freedom rally in Chicago.

At the funeral, Wonder was joined by his local representative, young African-American Congressman John Conyers, who had just introduced a bill to honor King’s legacy by making his birthday a national holiday. Thus began an epic crusade, led by Wonder and some of the biggest names in music—from Bob Marley to Michael Jackson—to create Martin Luther King Day.

To overcome the resistance of conservative politicians, including President Reagan and many of his fellow citizens, Wonder put his career on hold, led rallies from coast to coast and galvanized millions of Americans with his passion and integrity.

But it took 15 years.

In the immediate wake of King’s death, the political establishment was more concerned with keeping things calm, tamping down unrest, and arresting rioters and activists. It was a violent year—that summer the Democratic convention in Chicago exploded in chaos and another inspiring leader, Robert F. Kennedy, was killed by an assassin. The country seemed on the verge of civil war.

Conyers’ bill languished in Congress for over a decade, through years of anti-war protests, Watergate and political corruption, stifled by inertia and malaise at the end of the 1970s. The dream was kept alive by labor unions, who viewed King as a working-class hero, with protests that slowly built up steam. At a General Motors plant in New York, a small group of auto workers refused to work on King’s birthday in 1969, and thousands of hospital workers in New York City went on strike until managers agreed to a paid holiday on the birthday. King’s widow, Coretta Scott King, led a birthday rally that year in Atlanta, where she was joined by Conyers and union leaders. By 1973, some of the country’s largest unions, including the AFSCME and the United Autoworkers, made the paid holiday a regular demand in their contract negotiations.

Finally in 1979, President Jimmy Carter, who had been elected with the support of the unions, endorsed the bill to create the holiday. Carter made an emotional appearance at King’s old church, Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta. But Congress refused to budge, led by conservative Senator Jesse Helms of North Carolina, who denounced King as a lawbreaker who had been manipulated by Communists. The situation looked bleak.

By then, Wonder had matured from a young harmonica-playing sensation to a chart-topping music genius lauded for his complex rhythms and socially-conscious lyrics about racism, black liberation, love and unity. He had kept in touch with Coretta Scott King, regularly performing at rallies to push for the holiday. He told a cheering crowd in Atlanta in the summer of 1979, “If we cannot celebrate a man who died for love, then how can we say we believe in it? It is up to me and you.”