Friday, January 14, 2011

Honoring Dr. King

Asher's MLK illustration a few years ago

On Monday we will celebrate the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, junior.  I don't recall knowing much about him until I was in social work graduate school and began to learn of the man of integrity that he was, and the dedicated fight he fought for justice, equality, peace and unity.  I remember admiring him, but not thinking much about the holiday set aside to honor him.  (Which was first established in the late 1980s).  This changed when my son, in Kindergarten at the time, came home and asked me if I knew Martin Luther King, junior.  I said, “Well, I didn’t know him personally, but I know about him”. To which he earnestly replied, “Mom, he changed the world!” and then, with the same sincerity and inspiration that his amazing teacher must have relayed to the class, he went on to tell me some of the great things that Dr. King did.  “Mom, he fought against people being treated differently because of the color of their skin.  He was a preacher and he believed that God was for love and peace.  He said he had a dream that one day children: black and white, would go to school together and be friends. He was amazing, mom”.   I was choked up and ready to join the parade honoring this great man…and thus began a tradition of celebrating Dr. King’s life and work in our home.

So, this Monday at our house, we will have our 4th annual birthday celebration honoring Dr. M.L. King.  Rather than just trying to pass the time on a day when the kids are out of school, we try to seize the opportunity to actually celebrate the birthday of MLK.  We learn some history, talk about his life and seek inspiration to dream of what difference we might make with our own lives, following his example.  It has been a fun process of trying to figure out how to celebrate this holiday.  Book reading, video viewing, cake eating and dreaming of what we want to do with our lives are the key components of our celebrations. (Some of our favorite MLK books are Martin's Big Words by Rappaport & M.L.K. Journey of a King by Bolden).

We have attempted to symbolize racial integration and harmony by creating different varieties of vanilla/chocolate cakes: marble cake one year, white cake with chocolate frosting, chocolate cake with white frosting, and this chocolate cake with both white and chocolate chips topped with cream cheese frosting and chocolate shavings.

I have been thinking about the Black and White cookies that are sold in New York Delis.  Do you know these?  I found a recipe for them on Smitten Kitchen and a great blog entry that she has written about these cookies, which I think fits with the topic of the day.  I would like to make these cookies sometime as part of our celebration. 

I don’t know how you celebrate this holiday, or if you do, but I would love to hear your ideas!  I am humbled and inspired when I read about the lives of Dr. and Mrs. King, Rosa Parks, Rev. Fred Gray and other civil rights leaders who have courageously fought for Justice and Dignity in our country. 

This cake recipe was first introduced to me by my friend, Connie, who calls it Yummy Easy Chocolate Cake.  There is a similar cake in cookbooks called "Your Way" Cake, because of the flexibility of the cake.  You can vary the kind of cake mix, pudding, mix-in (chocolate chips, nuts, etc) and frosting (if you choose to frost it) that you use.  This is true for this recipe as well.  I call it Yummy Easy because it is indeed both yummy and easy- a great “go to” cake. 

1 box yellow cake mix 
1 small box instant chocolate fudge pudding
4 eggs
2/3 cup canola oil
1 cup sour cream
2 cups (or so) chocolate chips

Mix all ingredients (except for chocolate chips) together in a medium-sized bowl mix until well blended. Add chocolate chips.  Mix together.  Pour into greased and floured Bundt pan and bake at 350 degrees for 45-55 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean.  

I often make this cake in a Bundt pan without frosting it.  However, if you want to ramp it up, the following cream cheese frosting does the trick.

Cream Cheese Frosting
1 block cream cheese, softened
1 stick butter, softened
4 cups powdered sugar
1 Tbsp vanilla

Mix together cream cheese and butter until smooth.  Add vanilla and powdered sugar and blend until smooth and creamy.  If it is too runny- add more powdered sugar; too thick- add a little milk or water.

[This frosting recipe is a little different than the one from my Red Velvet Cake recipe, simply because that one makes a larger batch for the layered cake...either are scrumptious!  The main difference is the amount of cream cheese.  You really can't go wrong either way.]


  1. i LOVE smitten kitchen, and without even clicking the link i know exactly the cookies you are talking about. i've never attempted to make them, but i have made her homemade oreos once for aedan's birthday to take to his class when he was in kindergarten. i was totally impressed with myself. the kids, not so much--i think they would have rather had the packaged kind. ;)

    here's the link:

    these would definitely go with your black/white theme.

    we don't do much to celebrate MLK day, but these are good ideas. he is one of aedan's favorite people. he's been reading his biography since he was much younger. it's one of his favorite books.

  2. So fun, Kristi! Tell Aedan that Dr. KIng is one of my favorite people too- good choice of heros, Aedan.

  3. Julie, Love this post! Especially the integrated very clever. We used to be better about stopping to remember and celebrate MLK but have let it slide the past couple of years. He and I share the same birthday-- a fact I have always enjoyed. THanks for taking the time to share your wonderful ideas! At least I get to feel as if we are "connecting" a little bit when read your blog. -- Kendra

  4. Happy Birthday Kendra. Thanks for the your comment...and continual encouragement- hope you are all well. Can you believe our babies are turning 3?!

  5. Mom wanted me to let you know she read this and wept! :)