Students and faculty came together last Friday for an early Martin Luther King Jr Day celebration. The community meeting set the tone for today; as students quietly prepare for exams and conclude their first semester on campus, they have much to reflect on. Led by two of their peers, Kaleb Davis ’18 and Mikayla Williams ’18, and with contributions from many many others, the whole community was encouraged to think about our shared goals of inclusivity and equity.
Know My Story; None of Us Are Exactly the Same
Kaleb and Mikayla welcomed their peers to the community meeting and framed their goals for the morning’s agenda: “Martin Luther King Jr dedicated his life to the nonviolent struggle for racial equality in the United States. The themes of freedom, equality, justice, and love shine through in all that we know about Dr. King and his legacy.
In his Letter from a Birmingham Jail, King wrote “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” What did he mean by this? He suggests that we are all tied together – you, me, him, her, all of us. He saw the struggles of African-Americans living in this country as connected to the struggles of other oppressed populations around the world. In short, if we allow injustice to impact some people in some places, no one is safe in our increasingly global world. If you let that homophobic or racist comment slide as no big deal, then what? Do they come for your identity group next?
Today we ask you to honor Martin Luther King’s legacy by pausing to think about your individual identity and what perspective you bring to Husky Nation. There are over 350 people in this room, and none of us are exactly the same. Your perspective is different than the person sitting on your left and on your right. This can cause conflict at times, as we each tend to think that our perspective is the right one, the “normal” one. Sometimes we can be oblivious to the perspectives and life experiences of others.
Last night, at our Voices of New Hampton gathering, we heard stories from 3 brave students who shared some of their unique life experiences. We know them better now, and we start to understand the way their histories shape how they act, what they wonder about, and what their personal goals might be.”
A Real-Time Survey of Our Community
In a Google Instant Survey, all students responded anonymously to a series of questions. By using this real-time survey with results displayed on the screen in the theater, the whole community could see responses appear as students answered each question.
The questions demonstrated the diversity of experience within our own small community and helped everyone in the room to think about assumptions, privilege, and identity. Eye-opening questions included “My home is not in the United States,” “I have felt profiled as a result of my skin color,” “I do not identify as male or female,” “I am adopted,” “I have a parent who works more than one job,” and “I am 100% happy with the way I look physically.”
What is Intersectionality?
Claire Gardner ’20 helped students understand the purpose of the survey and explained the term “Intersectionality” which refers to the idea that identity is complex and one can’t fully understand another persons identity unless you actually know all parts of them.
As students in Contemporary Voice Lab often do, they selected a musical performance that was fitting for the day’s reflection. Mikayla Williams, Mackenzie Zubar-Williams, and Emily White performed Man in the Mirror by Michael Jackson.
Evelyn Liu ’18 and Tina Zhao ’19 contributed a piece about stereotypes. In particular, they shared common stereotypes surrounding people of Asian decent. Stereotypes they are often subject to themselves.
The New Hampton School Literati selected a poem that beautifully incorporated the celebration of Martin Luther King and this year’s New Hampton School theme. Charles-Emmanuel Ba Oumar ’18 read Still I Rise by Maya Angelou and gave yet another meaning to the theme Rise Up. Charles’ reading was followed by a series of images put together by Chris Friglington ’19 and his classmates in Literati. Each poster showcased an individual who has made great strides in the Civil Rights Movement. The posters are on display across campus to celebrate these individuals and remind everyone of the importance of taking action and standing up for what you believe in.
Martin Luther King Jr Day is A Day On, Not A Day Off
In closing, Kaleb and Mikayla shared: “For us, Martin Luther King Jr Day is a day on, not a day off. Yes, that means we go to classes and life carries on as usual, but it should also mean that we Rise Up to honor Martin Luther King Jr by taking the time to get to know other. Check your assumptions and your stereotypes. Everyone is more complicated than you think. Ask questions. Get to know each other. Offer your story. Talk to someone who you think is different than you. Rise up to encourage a freer, more equal, more just, more loving world.”