Museum marks King day |

Museum marks King day

Maggie O'Neill
Chad Lundquist / Nevada Appeal/ Shelby Hawkins, 10, left, and her cousin Gabby Cate, 9, color pictures of people on buses as part of a Martin Luther King Jr. Day project at the Children's Museum of Northern Nevada on Monday. The project is to remind children of Rosa Parks' plight on a segregated bus in Montgomery, Ala., in 1955.

CARSON CITY – Although the 1960s were wrought with ethnic tension, Jean Estrada experienced a more peaceful climate while attending high school at a Presbyterian mission in Albuquerque, N.M.

Students from all over the world turned up at the school, and it was common for classmates not just to come from different backgrounds, but also to have different skin colors.

“We had students from places like Brazil and Africa,” she said. ” But all the kids were so equalized.”

It was in such an open and accepting setting that Estrada, a Carson City resident for the past 32 years, learned that Martin Luther King Jr., whose birthday is celebrated the third Monday every January, had died.

“I remember a great sadness,” she said. “And I also remember learning how different people were treated at that time.”

Overt racism was not something she was accustomed to at her school. Earlier in her life, as a white girl at a boarding school on a Papago Indian reservation in Arizona, she had learned to become accustomed to cultural differences. Former President Ronald Reagan created the federal holiday in November 1983, after musician Stevie Wonder, with others, spearheaded the cause.

Estrada supported the action.

“Absolutely,” she said. “And for me, that means Rosa Parks on the bus. It’s important to talk about black history and how different people were treated in some places.”

After a weekend with her family, she brought five of her grandchildren and one niece to the Children’s Museum of Northern Nevada for the day.

Katherine Schwebler, 12, Shelby Hawkins, 10, Gabby Cate, 9, Logan Pingel, 8, Anthony Estrada, 6, and Zachary Cate, 11, get together every few months.

Shelby, from Yerington, sat at a table at the children’s museum Monday coloring in people on a cutout bus as her cousin Gabby, who is from Lemoore, Calif., did the same on the other side of the table.

The paper bus is two-sided, and Shelby colored in the same six people on each side of the bus, with one difference – she reversed the seating so that the person in back on one side is in front on the other.

“I mixed them up,” the fourth-grader said. “I decided it would be fair.”

Logan, who attends Double Diamond Elementary School in Reno, has been to the museum several times with Estrada. And like his grandma, Logan thinks having a day to honor King is important.

“He didn’t only care about blacks and whites getting along,” he said. “He also cared that people could become friends and drink from the same water fountain and go to the same school.”

Without pausing, he explains the impact on his own life – some 37 years after King’s assassination and more than 40 years after the Montgomery, Ala., bus boycott.

“That was pretty nice to have (King) do because I have a lot of friends at my school who have different skin colors,” he said.

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