Community, Diversity

Students Honor the Work of Martin Luther King, Jr.

To commemorate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s life and legacy, on Friday, Jan. 17, the Northwest School students and faculty engaged in a day of deep and reflective thought, grounded in looking inwards at our own community. The day’s activities were planned and facilitated by 40 Upper School students comprising the MLK Day Planning Committee.

To begin the MLK Day work, the planning committee provided an overview of civil rights movements and outlined the working agreements and norms to frame the day. Amalia H. ‘20, speaking on behalf of students who have dedicated time to social justice work and advancing equity, to consider their individual roles in the work of anti-racism and social justice and to imagine how the Northwest School can be a fully liberated and inclusive place.

“Let us interrupt the notion that social justice leadership is only for a certain type of student, one who is already so burdened with what they are made to deal with every day,” said Amalia. “Let us adopt this work as not just for some special people, but instead as the responsibility of all members of the community.”

The day’s work, which included faculty and students engaged in student-facilitated affinity spaces and small discussion workshops. was centered around four themes: respect, inclusivity, justice, and liberation. Throughout December and January, students had facilitated panel discussions, advisory activities, and an art project that took place during the Community Meeting before Friday’s event for fellow students to prepare for the MLK Day event.

Sy’Naeh S. ‘20, one of the MLK Day Committee leaders, said: “My hope was that everyone took away some sense of urgency to social justice. I hope that students and faculty would realize how hard it is for the marginalized students of our school to plan and host such a big day and want to give back, even starting small. Whether that be through interest groups or the smallest bit of respect in the hallways.”

The day concluded as it began, in community. Sy’Naeh and German C. ’21. together expressed their dreams for a truly just and equitable Northwest School through an imitation of the style of Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, saying "[I have a dream] That a student of color can proudly say they have a teacher who has the same skin color as them, that black lives actually matter, that white people understand that I do not speak for my entire race, that children are able to just be children, that black boys aren’t hyper criminalized and instead valued and seen for the people they are, that freedom will be a right and not a privilege, that no one feels unsafe to be who they are.”

Black faculty members finished Friday’s event by singing “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing,” by J. Rosamond Johnson and James Weldon Johnson, a song often referred to as the black national anthem.