Students reflect on the activist’s legacy and commit to working for a more just world.
Middle school is a time of transition, when students reflect on and redefine themselves and how others perceive them. So noted Head of Middle School Michelle Merson at last week’s town hall honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. This transitional phase requires courage, dedication and patience along with the open-mindedness of others. And appreciating the possibility for change in both ourselves and others, Michelle added, is fundamental to honoring the depth of Dr. King’s legacy.
“We all want to change, to be seen as sophisticated, unique, complex, and we want to be recognized for our growth, our new understandings,” Michelle emphasized.
In order to illustrate this point, the Middle School screened a 1967 interview with Dr. King
, conducted just 11 months before his assassination, in which he discusses a “new phase” in the Civil Rights Movement along with the evolution of his thinking since his famous 1963 “I Have a Dream Speech.”
In the interview, Dr. King acknowledged, “Some of the old optimism was a little superficial, and now it must be tempered with a solid realism. And I think the realistic fact is that we still have a long, long way to go.”
After viewing the video, each grade met to discuss Dr. King’s words and the work still to be done. Then students wrote how they envisioned a just society.
“A just society is a place where everyone feels safe and respected, where everyone has access to clean food and water and freedom to be creative,” wrote one eighth grader.
At the Jan. 15 Friday Gathering, the Elementary School also celebrated Dr. King, the possibility for change and the power of creativity. In addition to watching a brief video about Dr. King, they welcomed author-illustrator Marty Bennett, who read his inspiring book “Dear Black Boy” about the journey toward freedom of expression. The gathering concluded with a freestyle dance party to Stevie Wonder’s “Happy Birthday!” which he wrote in honor of Dr. King.
On Jan. 18, 12th graders Nora Cazenave and TJ Muhammed were honored at the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Westside Coalition 2021 Education Awards for creating works related to Dr. King’s “Six Principles of Nonviolence.” Nora received a Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Award for an essay she wrote about co-organizing a Black Lives Matter protest last June
; TJ received the Lillie Bell Blakely Award for a spoken word poem he penned
“My entry was a spoken word poem detailing the horrors that Black men can face when dealing with police,” TJ said in his acceptance speech. “As a young Black man scratching the surface with poetry, this award means a lot to me.”
The Upper School will pay tribute to King at an assembly on Friday, Jan. 22, followed by workshops on Monday, Jan. 25, and Tuesday, Jan. 26.