We Honor MLK by Continuing Our Journey of Transformation

MLK - Selma to Montgomery, 1965 (2018)

As a native of Selma, Alabama, most of you know about my roots in and respect for the Civil Rights Movement and all of the icons – both famous and unsung – who participated in it.

Today’s 32nd celebration of the Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday has an even more special meaning for our nation, as this year we also commemorate the 50th anniversary of Dr. King’s assassination. Though he has been gone for half a century, it is even more important today that we continue to honor his name by fighting to keep his dream of respect, dignity and prosperity for all alive. And at its core, that is what our journey of transforming Atlanta Public Schools is about – treating our students with respect and dignity, and preparing them to lead productive, prosperous lives.

I am back in Selma this weekend to celebrate the legacy of my own father’s life and look forward to returning again in two months to celebrate the legacy of leaders in the Voting Rights Movement. On Saturday, March 24, I will be running in the Inaugural Selma to Montgomery 51-Mile Dr. C - Edmund Pettus Bridge Picture (2018)Relay (read more about it here), held to commemorate the historic Voting Rights March of 1965 – organized and led by Dr. King, the Southern Christian Leadership Council (SCLC), and the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). It was a seminal moment in the Civil Rights Movement, a transformational journey that was met with great resistance. But Dr. King and countless other heroes and heroines of the Movement persisted, and we must do the same even as our transformational journey encounters its share of obstacles. I am always reminded of what Dr. King once said: “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.” 

APS Day 1 of school.

And we all know that Dr. King did not lead the Movement alone. A short list of those who fought with him includes legends like Congressman John Lewis, the Honorable Andrew Young, Rev. Joseph Lowery and Rev. C.T. Vivian, as well as late, great leaders such as Rosa Parks, Hosea Williams, Fannie Lou Hamer, Rev. Ralph David Abernathy, Dorothy Height, Beyard Rustin, Maynard Jackson and the Jackson Family, and of course, the ever-graceful Coretta Scott King.

Likewise, we are not alone in our quest to make APS a consistently high-performing school system, as illustrated by several of our great partners who will be honoring the King Holiday by completing service projects at a number of our schools:  State Farm (Brown Middle School); Salesforce (Bunche Middle School); Target (Crim Open Campus); Alston & Bird (Dunbar Elementary School); Slalom (Fickett Elementary School); ADP and Leadership Atlanta (King Middle School); and Newell Brands (M. Agnes Jones Elementary School).

I am deeply humbled by the commitment of Dr. King and countless other freedom fighters who marched and paved the way toward making this a better world filled with limitless opportunities for all of us. We should reflect on that truth today and every day, and honor their efforts, struggles and sacrifices by doing our best to keep Dr. King’s dream alive. I can think of no better way to do that than continuing our transformation of Atlanta Public Schools and brightening the futures of our students by preparing them for college and career, so that they may live fruitful lives of boundless possibilities.

Happy Birthday, Dr. King!

#MLKday #JohnLewisFreedomRunners #Selma

“SELMA” for APS Students – High school students can go for FREE while supplies last!!!


Everyone who knows me, knows that I am passionate about education.  If there is anything that rivals my love of public education…it is my love for my hometown of Selma, Alabama.

This year Selma celebrates the 50th anniversary of the historic 1965 march from Selma to Montgomery, led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  This was a social justice campaign to secure equal voting rights in the face of opposition.

Paramount Pictures recently released the movie “SELMA” which tells the story of this movement.  The film chronicles the tumultuous three-month period in 1965 when civil rights leaders, many from right here in Atlanta, won one of the most significant victories of the movements’ history. King attended APS’ Booker T. Washington High School and entered Morehouse College during his junior year in high school.  I am thrilled that the Atlanta community answered the challenge set by business leaders in New York and throughout the nation, and will kick off the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Holiday weekend by providing free movie tickets for “SELMA” to 10,000 APS high school (9th-12th grades) students beginning Saturday, Jan. 17, 2015.

Members of the Atlanta community raised more than $100,000 to purchase tickets for the film. Director Ava DuVernay’s “SELMA” tells the story of how the revered leader and visionary Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (David Oyelowo) and his brothers and sisters in the movement prompted change that forever altered history. The film also stars Tom Wilkinson, Cuba Gooding Jr., Alessandro Nivola, Giovanni Ribisi, Common, Carmen Ejogo, Lorraine Toussaint, with Tim Roth and Oprah Winfrey as “Annie Lee Cooper.”

The movie has an excellent educational component for our teachers that includes lesson plans that meet Common Core Standards to incorporate into the district’s curriculum.

STUDENT “ASSIGNMENT”: Our students who present a current Atlanta Public Schools’ ID or report card at the box office of any participating theater will receive free admission while tickets last. The metro Atlanta theaters are:


The diversity of our group of funders accurately represents our city.  We’re proud of the fact that people from all backgrounds and income levels that have come forward to share Dr. King’s message with APS students.  We had a range of donations where people gave what they could, including one very special $16 gift.  I love this city’s generous nature and our generous corporations, Chick-fil-A and Newell Rubbermaid, as well as well as individuals of all means who came together to make this happen.

I appreciate the efforts of Dr. Michael Lomax, president & CEO, United Negro College Fund; Hala Moddelmog, president & CEO, Metro Atlanta Chamber; and Dr. John Silvanus Wilson, Jr., president, Morehouse College.

In addition, the following supporters are making it possible for 10,000 APS high school students to see “SELMA”:

Large Funders $10,000


Ford Foundation

Greenberg Traurig

Bill Lewis & Carol Sutton-Lewis
Chuck Phillips
Myrtle Potter & Alan Thompson
Newell Rubbermaid

The Family of Meria Carstarphen

W.K. Kellogg Foundation

Other Funders ($9,999-$1,000)

Atlanta Board of Education


Coast to Coast Tours

Georgia-Pacific & Youth Entrepreneurs Georgia

Georgia Natural Gas

Hara Amdemariam

H.J. Russell and Company

Kathy and Kenny Waller

Metro Atlanta Chamber

The Integral Group

Thomas Kennedy Sampson & Tompkins

United Way of Metro Atlanta

Endorsing Organizations

100 Black Men of Atlanta, Inc.

Atlanta Business League

Atlanta City Council

Atlanta Women’s Club

Andrew & Walter Young Family YMCA


Dogwood City Chapter of The Links, Incorporated

First Congregational Church

National Black MBA Association – Atlanta Chapter

National Coalition of 100 Black Women, Inc. – Metropolitan Atlanta Chapter

National Sales Network Atlanta

S.C.L.C Women

The Andrew Young Foundation

The C. T. Vivian Leadership Institute

The National Center for Civil and Human Rights

The Urban League of Greater Atlanta

United Way of Metropolitan Atlanta

Endorsing Individuals

Fulton County Chairman John Eaves

Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard

Mr. Lonnie King

Dr. Joseph E. Lowery

Atlanta City Council President Ceasar C. Mitchell

Dr. C. T. Vivian

Ambassador Andrew J. Young

“SELMA” is nominated for Academy Awards® for Best Picture and Best Original Song for “Glory” by Common & John Legend. The film earned a Golden Globe Award for Best Song for “Glory” and was nominated for Best Picture, Best Actor and Best Director.

The film’s educational outreach includes a curriculum guide with 11 interdisciplinary lesson plans in Social Studies, ELA, Geography, Math and Art. All lessons meet Common Core State Standards.  Educators and parents may download a curriculum guide by visiting:


We’ve put up a page on the district’s website – for more information about theaters and show times for this weekend visit www.atlantapublicschools.us/selma or follow the Twitter hashtag #selmaforstudents.