“OK, today we are going to talk about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Someone tell me a little about Dr. King...”

I rocked back on my heels in the middle of the classroom then leaned forward at the slightest hint of a response. Looking at their paralysed faces it was clear none of my students had ever heard of Dr. King (one whispered something about Martin Luther the reformer).

After two minutes of low rumbles and feet shuffling, I broke the awkward silence.

I talked about the civil rights movement and non-violent protests Dr. King lead through police dogs and water hoses. I told them that Black people were not allowed to vote, go to good schools, or even eat in certain restaurants.

My students sat jaw-dropped when I said Black people had to sit in the back of buses and stand while a white person sat up front. I asked what this form of social treatment was called, looking for someone to say segregation.

Instead, one girl proudly shouted, “Apartheid.”

Close, I said.

The fact that Celes referenced an entirely different moment in history on an entirely different continent was not an egregious error in my eyes.

She made a connection from an experience familiar to her.

I followed this chain by comparing Nelson Mandela to Dr. King, stressing how they were both admirers of Gandhi's peaceful resistance teachings. When I talked about King's seminal “I Have a Dream” speech, I made the comparison to Obama, another great orator and an idol across Africa.

The danger with youth in Africa and other developing countries not knowing African American history is the perception becomes that Black people are behind socially, economically, and politically because this is the position they have chosen — for centuries.

But it wasn't enough to give them a history lesson.

Part of what we do at YAN is teach kids (and teachers) how to effectively use the Internet for school work and research. Before our class, most of the students had never used a computer.

So, I created the MLK Internet Scavenger Hunt Game. After a short lecture with tips for getting the best results online (for example, using quotations to search for exact key words or phrases) the students broke into teams of four.

They researched Dr. King and answered questions about his life. After they wrote down the URL and search terms, one person from each team had to run to the Scrabble table and spell out the correct answer.

It was a bumpy start, but by the third question, I think they caught on.