By Tori Mason

(CBS4) — Martin Luther King Jr.’s statue in Denver’s City Park is where many begin their MLK celebration in January. But behind the scenes, there’s work going on that could impact students around the state. Marade organizers and the learning company, McGraw Hill, are working together to create a curriculum that will highlight King’s teachings and his emphasis on nonviolence.

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“Dr. King’s words are always quoted by politicians, people marching, the people protesting, and yet, we tend to forget that Dr. King once said that a man who hasn’t done something worth dying for isn’t fit to live,” said Dr. Vern L. Howard, Chairman of the Dr. MLK Jr Colorado Holiday Commission.

Monday, Howard announced the commission is working on an education initiative to teach the nonviolent strategy that Dr. King mastered in conjunction with McGraw Hill.

“Civil Rights: A Global Perspective” dives into the nonviolent philosophy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and other influential human rights activists. According to McGraw Hill, the digital curriculum is designed to build empathy in students so they can apply lessons learned to current global challenges and build a more equal society.

Two years ago, the students at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Early College helped create a curriculum that includes Black, LatinX, Asian and Indigenous history. Know Justice Know Peace started out as a podcast.

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Member and DPS alumna Jenelle Nangah says there’s still work to be done.

“When you look at his speech and think about what’s going on right now, I know that his dream has yet to come,” Nangah said. “African-American history was introduced to me around elementary school. But, of course, it was in a negative light, just starting with slavery. It’s everybody’s job to make sure that Black history is known.”

As youth violence increases, Marade organizers say there couldn’t be a better time to highlight King’s nonviolence. A recent Manual High School grad and current social studies teacher works at DPS, but lives minutes from the park where several Aurora students were shot last year.

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“When we retaliate, and act out, that just confirms people’s perception about what we are and who we are. ‘Oh, they just some Black kids; they’re violent’,” said Sajied Guss, a teacher at Merrill Middle School. “I choose to live in Aurora and stay teaching in Denver.”

Verne told CBS4 similar collaborations with McGraw Hill have already passed in other states. Locally, Verne says Colorado school districts are set to meet soon on the matter to hear their opinions.

“I am so grateful and gracious to have this be the way we are going. This is going to be the start to a whole new beginning. This is going to be a change in Denver. This is going to be a change in how we see and educate our children,” Guss said

Visit the McGraw Hill website to learn more.

Tori Mason