Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day is a federal holiday in the United States that celebrates the life and achievements of an influential civil rights leader. While the federal holiday is celebrated on the third Monday of January, at Govs, we celebrate Dr. King on the Friday before the federal holiday. "I hope the Govs Community uses this day to embrace diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice to embrace our humanity throughout the weekend and in our journey of life," said Dean of Multicultural Education Eddie Carson, who led the organization of Friday’s programming.
Following advisory, the day’s programming was opened by Choral Director Declan Siefkas, who described the history behind the acapella arrangement of “Kanaval” which was performed by Govs select choral group The First. The song was composed by Sydney Guillaume and inspired by the sounds of Haiti’s eponymous celebration.
Following the performance was the keynote address by Dr. Jason Sokol, an American historian and professor of history at the University of New Hampshire. He has written three books about the civil rights movement: White Southerners in the Age of Civil Rights, which was named one of the top 10 books of 2006 by the Washington Post Book World; All Eyes Are Upon Us: Race and Politics from Boston to Brooklyn; and The Heavens Might Crack: The Death and Legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr.
Sokol’s speech focused on how Martin Luther King’s death transformed America, concentrating on the events leading up to his death and the events that transpired afterward. Following the keynote speech, students joined their respective grades for grade-specific programming in different locations around campus.
Ninth grade students joined one of seven thought-provoking workshop groups led by faculty and staff.
Andrew DeSalvo, a mathematics and economics teacher, led a workshop entitled “The Widening Racial Wealth Gap: The Historical Causes and Possible Solutions.” After discussing the drivers of wealth and watching the Netflix series episode explained: The Racial Wealth Gap, students discussed the impact of slavery and redlining on the racial wealth gap and brainstormed possible ways to close the gap in the future.
History teacher and Department Chair Erin O'Connell and Bookstore Manager Chris Robinson led a workshop entitled “The Threads of Impact: The Intersections of Fashion and Social Justice.” The workshop began with O’Connell leading a discussion of the environmental and social impact of used clothing disposal on indigenous communities around the world and closed with Robinson giving a basic sewing lesson to students.
History teacher and Writing Center Director Bill Quigley presented “Only the Young and Other Protest Songs,” leading students in his workshop through a musical journey. The workshop looked at protest, anti-war, and anti-racism songs throughout history. Songs that students listened to before discussing included “Freedom” by Beyonce ft. Kendrick Lamar, “Strange Fruit” by Billie Holiday, “Only the Young” by Taylor Swift, “A Change is Gonna Come” by Sam Cooke, and “Fight the Power” by Public Enemy.
Associate Academic Dean and history teacher Gary Satow’s workshop was entitled “Understanding Privilege.” He began the workshop with an exercise that served as a metaphor for understanding one’s privilege based on different factors, including class, ethnicity, gender, etc. He asked students to reflect on the exercise by writing down their answers to a number of questions before the class discussed it as a group.
Other workshop topics presented were:
- “MLK’s Boston: Lessons You Can Learn from Dr. King’s Time in Massachusetts” by Katherine Cornetta, Administrative Coordinator for Major Gifts
- “Building Your A Team: Finding Your Leadership Mentors” by Linda Santiago, Office Manager & Assistant to the Dean of Multicultural Education and Dean of Students
- “Heartbeat of Inclusion: Empathy Amplified” by Erin Davey, Dean of Students
Tenth grade students joined Reverend Tori Rosati, Unitarian Universalist Minister in Frost Library to learn about community and restorative justice practices. Rosati has served Unitarian Universalist congregations in professional and lay ministries in Massachusetts and Maine. Students joined smaller breakout groups to engage in the “circle process,” where they spoke individually about their experience with a guiding question presented by Reverend Rosati.
Eleventh grade students participated in “Social Justice and Art” workshops run by the Arts Department faculty. Student groups were given a dozen documentary photographs taken during the last 150 years and discussed a series of questions, including: how would you caption this photograph?; What is problematic about coming to a conclusion about a photograph without historical context?; and What are some differences/similarities between photographs from different decades?
Twelfth grade students gathered in the Frost Library with artist and activist Helina Almonte for a workshop in spoken word poetry. She encouraged students to focus on shared human experience and humanity, to embrace their authentic selves, and she talked about art as a means to create spaces for marginalized communities to be seen, heard, and celebrated. Students enjoyed performing their own spoken word poetry to speak their truths and have a little fun, too!
The day concluded with the community viewing the film Rustin together in the Wilkie Center for the Performing Arts. Rustin is the biographical story of Bayard Rustin, a gay civil rights activist who helped to organize the March on Washington in 1963, overcoming incredible odds. The film screening was followed by a thoughtful panel of both students and faculty members.