By Hayley Elwood
To commemorate Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the Los Angeles Chargers and two fifth grade classrooms from MLK Elementary in Los Angeles Unified School District virtually came together to celebrate his life and legacy.
On what would have been the civil rights leader’s 92nd birthday, defensive tackle Justin Jones and wide receiver Jason Moore joined the students in reading sections of the book, “Who Was Martin Luther King, Jr.?”
Both players noted how special it was to not only connect with the next generation but be able to share the legacy of Dr. King with the kids.
“It’s always a chance to put some good information in young minds, so when it’s time for them to start dreaming, it’s a chance that can happen if you really grind for it,” Jones said. “I feel like everyone, whether you know (Martin Luther King Jr.’s) whole story and all the details, you should at least know what happened, especially if you’re an African American. I feel like that’s vital because it’s our history, it’s American history, it’s our history as a country.”
“I feel like I was kind of helping his purpose,” Moore mentioned. “I’m a big legacy guy, I think it’s cool to share somebody else’s legacy and the things they fought for. MLK is a global icon for the way he was able to lead our people in such a hard time and do it in a peaceful way. I think it’s big for people to understand what he did because you don’t have to be violent to get your point across. So to reemphasize the things that he did, and to continue to inspire other people who may want to be the next MLK or not, I think it’s definitely important to continue to share his legacy.”
Additionally, Chanelle Thomas, the school’s principal, said it was beneficial having players who looked like the majority of her students share their own insight along with the story of Dr. King.
The Chargers are providing copies of the book for every student at the school as part of their First Downs for First Book initiative. This was important for the team and school alike to ensure students keep their passion for literacy high, even in these virtual times, as that’s something King Jr. was passionate about as well.
“Our goal right now with distance learning is to make sure students have an equitable and rigorous, high-level instruction day every day,” mentioned Veronica Moscoso, Community of Schools Administrator. “Having players read excerpts from the book and letting the kids know they’re also going to receive that really is part of what we do with making sure kids have access to instruction and literacy and we give students multiple opportunities in different ways to gain that knowledge.”
But while it’s key for students to celebrate the life of Dr. King during the month of January, Thomas said it’s important for them to recognize his impact beyond the first month of the year.
“(MLK’s) ideals are applicable today,” Thomas said. “Right now, our world is so different for us and we’re experiencing a new normal. But we always have to have faith that things are going to get better … Knowing that we’re always being lifelong learners, knowing that we have to not just learn about his teaching, but live it. We have to in our everyday lives, be respectful towards one another. We have to make decisions in our lives that affect not only us, but others around us in a positive way by giving back to the community like Jason and Justin did. (Those) are the ideals we have as a school; we’re safe, we’re responsible, we’re respectful. We represent peace, we have peace in our hearts … We don’t judge.”