In honor of the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Movement, students from the Disney Dreamer's Academy sound off on what race means to them today.
Thomas Pope, Aiken, SC, 17
On Race: “Race shouldn’t play a major part in meeting someone, getting to know someone, liking someone or disliking someone.”
On Diversity in School Friendships: “You see the occasional African American guy talking to a Caucasian girl or guy. In the lunchroom, Caucasians are in the middle, African Americans are on the side. When you get outside,everything kind of blends together. We are doing OK, but we are not past all of 'it.'"
On the Realization of Dr. King’s Dream (Yay or Nay): “Somewhat. It has come true seeing how different people can come together…like seeing how the Disney Dreamers are interacting. I still think we are a bit off his dream. Until we can get rid of racism, prejudices and the hate, I do not feel as if Dr. Martin Luther King’s dream has completely come true.”
His Dream: “I want to become an engineer, either civil or mechanical. Later, I would like to get into politics; and I would like to get into the South Carolina House of Representatives...and I don't want to just stop there, next is the U.S. House of Representatives, then hopefully the Senate.”
Why Dream? “Dreams are important because without them, you won’t know what you want to do in life. You need a dream just to start you off; even if you deviate from that dream a little bit or a lot. Dreams are very important, because without them we’d be lost.”
Dashonnah Gittens, Newark, NJ, 15
On Race: “No matter what color you are, no matter what size you are or what you look like, you should always be willing to befriend somebody. You should never judge anybody because if you cut us, we all bleed the same on the inside.”
On Diversity in School Friendships: “I can’t say everybody gets along. I go to West Side High School, which is not a good school at all. There are kids who want to fight; kids who want to kill each other; so it is kind of hard to even sit with anybody... . For example, if I sit next to you, I don’t want to end up getting hurt. My thing is coming to school, getting an education and leaving.”
On the Realization of Dr. King’s Dream (Yay or Nay): “I think it HAS been realized, but now, it’s not about color, it’s about how you look. You are never skinny enough, you are too big, your hair is different. Instead of helping each other, people are turning against each other.”
Her Dream: “My dream is to be a choreographer, and have my own dance studio for low-income kids. On the side, I would like to be a writer.”
Why Dream? “Dreams are important because sometimes that is all a kid has is a dream. It is always great when a dream is fulfilled because it shows that kid that they are important and they can make it...no matter where I come from...because I am great.”
Kailah Brookfield, Los Angeles, CA, 16
On Race: “When I asked my parents, what am I? Am I mixed? They’d say, 'yeah, with your mom and your dad.' I really thought we were all just the same people, then I started noticing people treating me differently because I wasn’t white, I wasn’t Black, I wasn’t Mexican...I was a mix of it all. So they were like 'you’re so bright, you make the sun jealous.' My mom and dad helped me cope by telling me color doesn't define you nor does your race.”
On Diversity in School Friendships: “For the most part, my school is Black and Mexican. Black people hang on this side, Mexicans hang on that side. We are all friends, but we just don't have the same circle. It’s not 'just because you are Mexican, we not gonna hang out with you, this is just who clicked with each other, but we’re all friends.'"
On the Realization of Dr. King’s Dream (Yay or Nay): “It has not been fully realized. There is so much we still need to build up. Dr. King opened the doorway for us to find our path in life, we have to be willing to look for it ourselves.”
Her Dream: “The only thing that drives me is that I really want to help people.” She wants to major in anthropology and go on to be an OB/GYN and act.
Why Dream? “Dreams are important: Your dream is like a root to your tree, it makes everything grow.”
Tiszara Green, Chicago, IL, 17
On Race: “I don’t base my judgment on race...”
On Diversity in School Friendships: When she goes to her internship she is exposed to a diversity of races. “I treat them as any other person. I do respect them, and interact with them...”
On the Realization of Dr. King’s Dream (Yay or Nay): “It is still in process. We still have some adjustments to make in our attitude and how we treat each other; we downgrade our own race. We’ll get there, we just have to keep striving.”
Her Dream: “I would like to be an anesthesiologist. I would like to be sociologist and teacher as well...”
Why Dream? “I think dreams motivate you. I know I need to strive, so I refer back to my dreams.”
Garrett Collins, Brooklyn, NY, 14
On Race: “I learned about race in school. I was told 'you are Black.' I thought I was just a kid. Recently, we’ve been studying genetics in biology. We discovered that race is more of a sociological thing than a genetic thing. We use it to discriminate.”
On Diversity in School Friendships: “Most of the time, during the school day, we are more together. After school, we go our separate ways...with our friends.”
On the Realization of Dr. King’s Dream (Yay or Nay): “I think we are more equal than before, but I don’t think we are fully equal.”
His Dream: ”I want to be an investment banker for a corporate client. I would like to see the work that I do on the front pages of newspapers all around the world.”
Why Dream? “It gives you something to aspire to; it keeps the inner child going.”
Jordan Simpson, Smyrna, TN, 15
On Race: “As long as people are nice to me, I try to be nice back to them. My parents taught me to treat people how I would like to be treated.”
On Diversity in School Friendships: “Gym class brings a lot of people together. We play dodge ball or volleyball. We yell at each other to hit the ball, and when someone drops the ball, we are like NO! It is really fun. In art classes we talk to each other and help each other make better art.”
On the Realization of Dr. King’s Dream (Yay or Nay): “It has. It used to be that people couldn’t even drink from the same water fountain. These days, all kinds of people have gotten together and had children.”
His Dream: “I want to be a forensic psychologist when I grow up.”
Why Dream? “When you have a dream, it can take you places. No one important person just happened upon importance.”
Elizabeth Monroe, Baytown, TX, 17
On Race: “My grandfather taught me to be proud of who I am. My name is Elizabeth, and I’ve gotten flack over the years for that not being ethnic enough. My own biological father does not call me by real first name because it is not ethnic enough for him. Being proper and being educated is not a sign of whiteness, but a sign of strength. It makes me a proud Black woman.”
On Diversity in School Friendships: “As for as academic and sports everybody is usually mixed, but when it comes to lunch or a social function, everyone keeps to themselves...”.
On the Realization of Dr. King’s Dream (Yay or Nay): “Definitely not. We are always striving for more; when we feel like we have reached true equality is when we are going to be in a worse state because we are not striving for anything better.”
Her Dream: “My dream is to be first female African American director to win an Oscar for best director and best film. I hope to make it to Sundance, be a Pulitzer Prize winner...I don't know how I am going to work all of that in, but I plan on it.”
Why Dream? “Dreams fuel us, without dreams you have no vision."