For the first Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District board meeting of the new year, superintendent Dianne Talarico arranged a special presentation by Donzaleigh Abernathy, the author of Partners to History: Martin Luther King Jr., Ralph David Abernathy, and the Civil Rights Movement.

As January is National School Board Recognition Month, Talarico said she thought this would be a good way to honor the school board for its service — and also honor Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday and multiculturalism.

Partners to History is an inside look at the Civil Rights Movement through Abernathy’s eyes and personal recollections.

“I was there,” she said. “I just wanted it [the book] to be firsthand. I wanted to make history accessible.”

Her book includes hundreds of photographs, and quotes from both her father, Ralph David Abernathy, a Civil Rights Movement leader, and Martin Luther King, Jr.

Her father and King, whom she was close to and calls “Uncle Martin,” were best friends and are credited with helping establish the Civil Rights Movement.

“They did everything together,” she said. “They were inseparable.”

In honor of School Board Recognition Month, the board members were each given an autographed copy of the Partners to History.

“I wanted to thank you on behalf of the children you serve, the hours you spend, your access as a public servant,” Talarico said to the board. “I couldn’t think of a better, more special gift to give you.”

Partners to History is also on the shelf of every school library in the district, Talarico said. Bobby Kennedy, Jr. wrote the forward to the book.

Talarico said she thinks it is very important to have this book available to students to look at and learn about this period.

“It has become a great teaching tool,” said Abernathy of her book, which was nominated by the American Library Association as one of the “Best Books for Young Adults” for 2005.

Abernathy, a former Santa Monica resident, has presented her book to several district schools already, and has given presentations to all Santa Monica and Malibu school principals.

“In the honor and spirit of multiculturalism, I find it absolutely delightful and heartwarming to have Donzaleigh Abernathy,” Talarico said. “You are so engaging and a wonderful storyteller.”

“I commend you for the book,” said board member Barry Snell.

Snell said he understood and could remember events Abernathy referred to in her presentation, as he had also been through them.

“On behalf of the board, I just wanted to say what a thrill it was to hear you speak,” said school board president Kathy Wisnicki. “I’m hoping we’re raising kids who are growing up colorblind. I don’t think we’re quite there yet, but I still think that we are much closer than we were.”

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