by Dr. Trina Moore-Southall, Director of Equity and Inclusion
On Tuesday, January 17, our Middle and Upper School students and faculty were invited to virtually sit at a table with Civil Rights Icon, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Students experienced video footage and photographs of Dr. King and other other civil rights activists projecting through the screen as Dr. King's voice spoke of standing up for justice, being tired but still persistent, and of course, his dream for an equitable America. A national touring company, At the Table with Dr. King, travels across the country to challenge students to think about their calling, responsibility and accountability in doing what is ethical and just. We experienced a dramatic portrayal of Martin Luther King reciting a poem. Jazz and gospel music told powerful stories of challenge, resistance, and triumph. Students were invited to participate as mock protesters who held up signs for equal pay, desegregation, women's rights, and education. We sang along to "Lean on Me" and we were moved as we listened to Mahalia Jackson's rendition of "Precious Lord". We saw photos of high school students who were volunteering in various capacities to serve others. This was a lesson in American history and a theatrical and musical experience. It was an embrace and celebration of Brentwood's core values.
Middle School students used their advisory time the following day to process their individual and collective benefits from the Civil Rights Movement. Students were asked to write or illustrate one way they personally will act to ensure that the work of Dr. King keeps moving forward. They then shared anything that they can do to create a more just and merciful world for humanity. Their ideas were written on paper footprints to communicate how we are to keep moving.
Discussions in upper school advisories posed questions such as: What did they take away with them from yesterday? What about Dr. King's message resonates with them, and what do they admire about him personally? In what ways has our society progressed since the Civil Rights Era and in what areas do we still have many opportunities for improvement? What are a couple of issues that matter to them and how can they contribute?
A focus of the assembly was the significance of the youth voice. Organizations such as SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee) and the Freedom Riders relied on young people to be involved and engaged. The message was made clear that there is an inherent responsibility for civil rights in our world today.