Reflecting Upon Dr. King’s Legacy – the 2016 MLK Assemblies

In the days leading up to what would have been the 87th birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the Lower School had its 2016 MLK Assembly on January 13 while the Middle and Upper Schools held their 2016 assemblies on the morning of January 14.

“Lower School students celebrated the dream of Martin Luther King Jr. by watching a short video about Dr. King’s life that included drawings by children; listening to some of Dr. King’s more memorable quotes, which were eloquently delivered by the fifth grade students; and ending with everyone in Lower School singing a song entitled, ‘The Dream of Martin Luther King’,” explained Lower School music teacher Mary Heveran.

Below are some of the quotes shared by the fifth graders:

  • “If you can’t fly, then run; if you can’t run, then walk; if you can’t walk, then crawl; but whatever you do, keep moving forward.”
  • “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
  • “Forgiveness is not an occasional act; it is a constant attitude.”
  • “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”
  • “I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”
  • “Peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek, but a means by which we arrive at that goal.”
  • “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.”
  • “Courage faces fear and thereby masters it.”

“The Middle School viewed the film Selma: The Bridge to the Ballot, produced by Teaching Tolerance, a project of the Southern Poverty Law Center,” said Office of Multicultural Affairs director Clinton Carbon. Introduced by India Marseille ’20 with a script written by sixth grade history teacher Ben Fleisher, the assembly provided insight into the tumultuous climate in which African Americans lived in the South until the early 1960s, when Dr. King and his colleagues began to fight back.

Their assembly ended with the following concusion, as read by Neelan Kumar ’20: “‘… I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.’ This quote, as written by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in his ‘Letter from a Birmingham Jail’ rings as true today as it did then. The story of civil rights in this country was not concluded with the signing of the Civil Rights act of 1964 — it continues to this day. We, as Americans, still struggle with the history of racial segregation in our country. We, as Americans, still struggle with injustice today in 2016. As Dr. King says, we cannot just sit here and pretend that what happens elsewhere in the country, in the world, does not concern us. We must work together to point out injustice where we see it and work together to truly make this world a better place than it was yesterday. I will leave you with these words, again, from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in his ‘Letter from a Birmingham Jail’: ‘Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.'”

In the Upper School assembly, the six students who attended the Student Diversity Leadership Conference last month led a community exchange focusing on what was a particularly eventful 2015, using Dr. King’s “words and the words of others who are deep in the quest for equity and justice,” explained Belicia Rodriguez ’17.

“In order to have a community-wide exchange about MLK’s legacy and how it fits into what is going on in the world today, you will be shown a series of prompts, and then you will be invited to respond,” she continued. “The goal of this session is to give voice to our own sense of moral and civil outrage and obligation, recognizing that for each of us that looks, sounds and feels just a little bit different. We aim to honor and respect that, just as MLK would have.”

“What words of meaning and comfort would Dr. King have spoken to guide us to a higher moral ground?” asked Justin Gross ’17 in the introduction to the assembly. “A call to action beckons each of us to become active in some way. The young have heard the call and have been drawn into protests, mostly peaceful and, in steadily growing numbers. From our college campuses to large U.S. cities to

world capitals, young people have made the connections of intersectionality and realized we are linked together on many levels: gender, socio-economics, religion, sexual orientation, ability, race, ethnicity and family structure.”

Written by Mr. Carbon along with Upper School history teacher Ben Ambler, Upper School English teacher Diane Christian and Director of Student Activities Maya Gunaseharan ’08, the assembly forged Upper Schoolers to consider their roles in a society where debate and conflict charged by racial differences continue to exist. Examples were presented by Belicia and Seon Layne ’16, while Jahod Silver ’18Nevien Swailmyeen ’16 and Vanessa Velez ’16 also assisted throughout the assembly.

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