Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Remembering Dr. King on January 15 by Fred Klonsky

One of my favorite posts by my friend, Fred Klonsky:

My latest retirement project is volunteer teaching ukulele to a mixed kindergarten and first grade class at a public school in Chicago’s Little Village.

Once a week on a Monday for about an hour.

More fun than anything else.

I’m an art teacher, not a music teacher. But I know kindergarten and first grade. I taught those kids for nearly three decades.

We take small steps: Which direction the neck of the ukulele goes. Strumming in a pattern together.

I bought a pack of little colored sticker dots to put under the bottom string, third fret so they knew where the C chord was. You can play a lot with just the C chord. And then I throw in a couple of others. An F chord if we need it. Maybe a C7. But mostly we find a beat and I get them to sing loudly and it all works.

Today is Martin Luther King’s birthday, and it is observed next Monday as a national holiday. No school. So their classroom teacher asked if we could learn a song to honor Dr. King.

Sure. This Little Light of Mine. It can be played with just a C and a G chord.

I played the G.  They played the C.

“Who was Dr. King?” I asked.

“The first Black president. He got killed.”

“Nope. Not a president. But a great man just the same.”

But how do you explain Dr. King in a few minutes to five and six-year olds? How do you explain to little ones why I was so moved again last night as I listened to the personal recollections of Otis Moss Jr., a Baptist Pastor who was a close friend to Dr. King?

Rev. Moss recalled how Dr. King risked all when he went against the advice of his fellow ministers and condemned the War in Vietnam. I’m old enough to remember that. And more. Old enough to have heard Dr. King speak in person more than once. Old enough to have been a young participant in The Movement.

So, I skipped the talk about Dr. King and sang the song for them.

This little light of mine. I’m gonna let it shine. Every day! Every day! Every day!

“What’s the light?” I asked. “Is it a flashlight?”


“Is it a candle?”


“Is it a light bulb?”


“Is it freedom?” I said.


And I began to strum.

C and G.

“Every day! Every day! Every day!”

1 comment:

  1. Thank you Glen. Tomorrow I start teaching Uke to a new group of K-1 kids. We will be starting with This Little Light of Mine. Happy birthday to the great man.
    - Fred Klonsky