“Music. . . has strengthened us with its sweet rhythms when courage began to fail. It has calmed us with its rich harmonies when spirits were down.” – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Throughout the week leading up to Martin Luther King Jr. Day on January 20, Upper School students engaged in a variety of programming focused on the life of Dr. King and his legacy as an activist. On Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, students participated in mid-day assemblies devoted to exploring the life and legacy of Dr. King.
“When we originally started this yearly programming, it was around the time the Black Lives Matter movement began,” explained Stephanie Snyder, US science of mind teacher. “We wanted to make sure that we were dedicating time in our schedule to talking to students about the issues that really matter related to Dr King’s legacy.”
Monday’s assembly focused on how radical Dr. King was, how he’s become a figurehead for the Civil Rights Movement, and his radical imagination, the ability to envision a different future.
“On Tuesday, we unpacked how through this deification of Dr. King, we lost the complexity of who he is,” said Director of Social Justice, Equity, and Inclusion Alegria Barclay. “We focused on the things we don’t typically learn about MLK.”
Wednesday’s assembly shifted focus to the theme of Thursday and Friday’s classroom sessions: The Sound of Revolution. Students watched “Soundtrack for a Revolution,” a documentary that traces the story of the Civil Rights Movement and the struggles fought by young African-American activists with an emphasis on the power of music. Thursday’s and Friday’s sessions, taught by Nueva teachers and administrators, included “Music of the Labor Movement,” “Amazing Grace—A History,” “Black Power and Anti-War Music,” and “Calypso Resistance: Trinidad’s Post-Colonial Sound and Fury.”
Said senior Eugenia T., “I went to Dell’s [Upper School teacher Danielle McReynolds-Dell] hip-hop and rap session [Fight the Power!] and I felt really inspired that I was able to learn this information, and I thought about how impactful it would be if other high school students, and even adults, could learn this. I learned things that I don’t think many other high school students get the chance to learn.”
Alegria noted, “There were three main takeaways we wanted for our students. First, that they learn they have the capacity to make change. Second, that they understand there is a lineage of activism that they can continue. And finally, for them to bear witness to those who have done all of this for civil rights to better all of our collective lives.”
“We’re really lucky to get this programming,” Eugenia added
On Friday, January 24, Lower and Middle School students took part in an assembly focused on MLK Day. Facilitators Alison Williams and Lissie McAlvey posed the question, “Why MLK Day?” and looked at Dr. King’s legacy.
“We hope to provide students with a better understanding of the history of MLK day, and provide them with a more complex understanding of how revolutionary his vision was,” Alison explained. “We discussed what made his vision so compelling, and why it continues to be so.”
The assembly concluded with Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech and a discussion about whether students believe how or if we have made his dream come true.
(Photos by Willow Taylor C.Y., '21)