Marting Luther King Memorial Washington DC

Doing What Is Right: Honoring the Legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr.

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“It is always the right time to do what is right.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

Traditionally, our school community gathers physically in McEvoy Theater to learn and reflect on the life of Martin Luther King Jr. and his lasting legacy in the United States Civil Rights Movement. Close together in our seats, the stage ahead, with speeches delivered at the lectern with visual projections above, the closeness offers a sense of community as an element of the conversation at hand. Just one year ago, we discussed the courage to fight for change, and heard from former faculty member Steve Davis who, among many words, reflected on the important protests that New Hampton School students took part in during the late 1990s to have this day recognized in our state.

Though our period of on-campus quarantine earlier this week meant our discussions were virtual, they were no less poignant. And while we listened, we also marked the need that quoting Dr. King’s words and sharing reflections are only a small part of the equation. Continuing with active steps forward—to do what is right—is a necessity for real change.

 

Martin Luther King Day
New Hampton students gather in front of the State House on MLK Day as part of a peaceful protest. Courtesy of the 1997 Belfry.

Emphasizing perspective, understanding

Mr. Daye reflected on his personal experience growing up, sharing his familial experience. He noted, “Dr. King’s words are the gospel and the script to succeeding in a world that was not meant for people like me. The connection was personal because I had people in my house that were affected by the discrimination, and managed to overcome the obstacles to have the life they wanted.” As a perspective of what is seen in our own community, Daye shares, “When we look on campus, we see a variety of different cultures and races together as one and we are keeping the dream alive. It is up to you all to continue to spread positivity and keeping the words of Dr. King relevant and apart of you as you continue to find your purpose in life.”

Mr. Churchill spoke to the need to keep our eyes and actions moving things forward. “When we spend too much time reveling in the gains we as a nation have made, we take our eyes off the end goal. So you are all probably sitting there thinking what can I do (because I have been asking myself the same question). You can do…by being active in this fight…because the more time we spend wondering ‘what we can do’ the more time we are wasting towards progress.” Churchill was also a member of the faculty and staff team who took a class this past semester called ‘Facing Whiteness’. He acknowledges that the class was “uncomfortable yet powerful” and one that forced him to be introspective. “While I was hoping to walk away with answers and solutions, I left with many more questions. What I want to say to you all today is that you will never be in a place where you are comfortable with topics like race and inequality so get used to being comfortable with the uncomfortable and don’t avoid these topics and others like them because you don’t understand them. It is that very lack of understanding of others that in my mind has created so much anger and hate in our world. Be willing to do your part, ask questions, engage in conversations about equality, be compassionate, kind, empathetic, and caring towards all humans.”

 

Continuing the work

In addition to the reflections of students and faculty members on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, advisory groups led discussions in smaller settings and will reconvene to continue their discussion. Thank you to everyone for your work, and especially to our speakers: Mr. Daye, Mr. Churchill, Katie ’21, and Autumn ’21.

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