Dozens of people wrote their dreams on construction-paper hands and taped them to a wall in the Blackhawk Technical College commons.
Many dreams were frivolous, such as unlimited ice cream and a pet unicorn. Others were more serious.
“I dream for my uncle to be a U.S citizen.”
“I dream to stop North Korean missiles.”
Most appeared to have been written by children.
The dream hands were a backdrop for the Martin Luther King Jr. commemoration held Saturday at BTC. The event marks 50 years since King’s assassination.
The theme of the event was “A Dream Deferred,” a reference to Langston Hughes’ poem “Harlem.”
Student panelists from Beloit Memorial, Craig and Parker high schools shared their dreams to create more inclusive spaces in Beloit and Janesville.
Each panelist shared the recurring feeling of isolation in being the only person of color in a classroom or workplace.
“That’s been every day of my life,” said Parker student Alexis Schumacher.
While acknowledging the world has come a long way since King’s time, there is still a long way to go, the panelists agreed.
Beloit Memorial student Karen Soto recalled the day after the 2016 presidential election, when a peer asked her when she would move back to Mexico. She was shocked to learn the student wasn’t joking.
Schumacher said she regretted not saying something when a student yelled out the “N-word” at her school recently.
Schumacher and Soto encouraged the crowd to tackle difficult conversations about race and prejudice with open minds.
“Kill them with kindness,” Soto said.
Craig students Bria Larson, Zachary Russell and Ama Kyereme were involved in a video project with their teacher, Carrie Wyatt. The video “50 Years: Keep Moving Forward” featured student interviews with Wisconsinites who marched with King and fellow civil rights activist Cesar Chavez.
Kyereme described the experience simply as “humbling.” She learned that elders could teach her more about history than she could learn in textbooks.
While accepting one of two United Auto Workers Local 95 Martin Luther King Jr. Civil Rights Service Awards, Lonnie Brigham said that, as a child, his elders taught him that life runs in circles.
Growing up on the streets of Chicago, Brigham grew to dislike police officers, he said. As a paralegal, he worked on lawsuits against officers.
Now he is president of the African-American Liaison Committee to the Janesville Police Department and is a member of the JPD oral interview board involved in hiring new officers. That’s what he considers as coming around full circle.
He saw another circle completed during a recent committee meeting, he said.
He referred to the King quote:
“I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit together at the table of brotherhood.”
At the meeting, a man told Brigham he was the son of a slave owner and apologized for that fact. That same man was seated at the table with Brigham on Saturday.
That experience, Brigham said, is what Martin Luther King Jr. was all about.