Hopeful. Excited. Inspired. These are just some of the words that described the way students, faculty and staff felt after participating in the conversations and presentations during Latin’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Commemoration on Wednesday, January 20.
Upper school students began the morning at assembly with an inspirational rendition of “Lift Every Voice and Sing” by J. Rosamond Johnson and James Weldon Johnson sung by Latin’s upper school chorus.
The assembly was anchored by the amplification of student voices answering thought-provoking questions. Upper school affinity groups, including Black Student Union (BSU), Latin American Student Organization (LASO), Chronic Illness and Disability Alliance (CIDA), LGBTQ+ Affinity, Asian Student Alliance (ASA) and White Identities and Anti-Racism Affinity (WIAA), discussed their answers to the question, “What would an equitable and inclusive community look like at Latin?”
Learn more about Latin’s institutional goals and action steps for DEI from Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Eleannor Maajid in this episode of the Latin Learner Podcast. Co-Head of LASO and junior at Latin Caroline C. ’22 echoed the sentiment that many affinity groups offered in their reflection of the question: “An inclusive and equitable community to me acknowledges that from the start this institution might look very different to new incoming students but makes an effort to make everyone aware that their culture shouldn’t define whether they speak up in class or not or be given looks down the halls. No one should be told to tone down their culture.”
The student groups also answered these questions: “Why is it vital for students to be able to organize? How do equity-focused student groups improve community and hold them accountable?” The upper school’s Student Diversity and Equity Committee (SDEC) and Demanding Accountability groups provided insight into this area. SDEC is dedicated to fostering a safe, inclusive environment at Latin and promotes dialogue across all perspectives. Demanding Accountability is a group focused on holding the Latin community accountable for creating the space that the community says they want Latin to be.
These student groups noted that student organizing is important because they have a relevant perspective with insight into injustices that sometimes only students can see. Co-head of Demanding Accountability Kazi S. ’22 was quoted during the presentation, “When students aim for equity, we can be the prosperity of not only ourselves but everyone around us.” When students aim for equity, we can be the prosperity of not only ourselves but everyone around us.
Kazi S. '22, Co-head of Demanding Accountability
In continuing with the assembly’s theme of amplifying student voices some of the other student groups that presented included Student Government, Identity Coalition for Latin (ICFL), “Discourses” and “The Forum.” An inspirational morning concluded with remarks from English Teacher and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Coordinator Brandon Woods: “We stand ready to listen to you, to partner with you and most importantly, to be challenged by you. You have the ability to make change that you might not even know yourselves, so we stand ready to help you do that and for you to guide us and lead us.”
During the middle school assembly, Educational Consultant Dr. Derrick Gay leveraged Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s iconic "What Is Your Life's Blueprint?" speech to frame Latin’s 2020 I can practice peace.
I can try again, rather than give up.
I can care for my community.
Mindful affirmations from the book "I Can Do Hard Things" by Gabi GarciaMiddle School Climate Assessment findings. "The idea was to invite you to reflect on your life's blueprint, meaning who you are, your actions, your behaviors, your legacy, your purpose and how we can link your purpose to creating a more inclusive school... a more inclusive world," Dr. Gay explained to the students. He also noted that this speech was written by Dr. King for middle school students. Hear more about the history behind the speech and listen to an excerpt.
In honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., lower school students engaged in various peace-related activities during the month of January. They also participated in an all-lower school read of “I Can Do Hard Things” by Gabi Garcia. As part of the MLK Day commemoration, students selected a personal photograph or designed an affirmation poster that connected to one of the following lines from the book:
- “I can practice peace.” What is something peaceful you do for yourself or for others?
- “I can try again, rather than give up.” What is something challenging (a “hard thing”) that you are learning to do or have learned to do?
- “I can care for my community.” What is something that reflects a way that you contribute to or care for your community?
At the lower school assembly, students listened to Dr. Gay read “I Can Do Hard Things” and then watched a video featuring the photos and student work.
Although the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Commemoration at Latin looked much different this year than in years past, students, faculty and staff found a sense of hope, excitement and inspiration from the day’s events.
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