Sponsored by the Office of Equity and Inclusion, the second-annual MLK Jr. Day Symposium was a day-long campus-wide initiative to honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and celebrate his legacy and ideals.
“Our aim was to bring together a variety of voices and perspectives to foster greater awareness of the role Dr. King’s teachings and leadership played in the lives of all people, and to facilitate conversations and workshops that promote equity and inclusion within our community and the larger global community of which we are a small part,” said Joel Sohn, co-director the office and one of day’s primary organizers.
The day’s events began with a special performance, “At the Table with Dr. King,” by the group Listen.Live.Repeat. The performance offered a mashup of excerpts from some of Dr. King’s most famous speeches with music and multimedia clips of art and archived footage from the Civil Rights Movement.
From there, students were offered a choice of 18 sessions aimed at exploring a variety of topics, ranging from contemporary issues to historical events. All of the sessions and brief descriptions are available on the MLK Day Symposium website
Co-director for the Office of Equity and Inclusion Molly Pugh recalled several memorable moments where energized students shared their gratitude for the day. “One student came running up to my table at lunch and then was quite literally speechless as she waved the brochure of her workshop with Ms. Mulholland and Mr. O'Brien and teared up,” she said. “When she found the words, her admiration for this pair bubbled over.”
Following the lunch menu especially prepared to honor the day, the entire school community regrouped for an afternoon service project in support of Rise Against Hunger
“The service project was a massive win for our community. We packaged 40,000 meals in less than 2 hours,” Sohn said. “By having the entire school involved in a single activity, students remarked that it brought the community closer together for that brief time in a real way to honor the ideals of Dr. King.”
Throughout the day, Advanced Photography students assisted teachers David Douglas and Frank Phillips with a community art project, “Identity Silhoutette,” where everyone was asked to sit for a portrait and to choose a single word to describe themselves.
Six alumni returned to participate in a special panel discussion about their experiences as students on the Hill. Rasheed Cole ’03, Olabisi Fraser ’11, Aliyah Griffith ’11, Wayne Johnson ’80, Azizi Marion Jones ’02, and Rev. Rodney Rice ’79, answered questions ranging from why they chose Episcopal in the first place to sharing some of their greatest difficulties as a student and a person of color on a predominantly white campus.
"I want to thank you for shaping EHS and our community into the one it is today," junior Ellie Cummings wrote in a thank you note to the panelists. "No matter your role, [no matter] whether you were a monitor or an athlete, I want you to know that EHS would not be the same without your help."
Many of the morning sessions left a powerful mark on the students involved, and no small number of students offered to write thank you notes to the special guests and presenters.
Shaunjaney Bryan, a junior who participated in a special affinity group workshop on “Finding Your Voice” with Jennifer Hamady, wrote in her note, “"Thank you for creating and facilitating an open and safe space that girls of color could thrive, relate, and empower each other in. It’s very rare that girls of color are able to be in the same space together at the same time. During our workshop, I learned that although impact is heavier than intent. Relationships and a deeper understanding of people come from assessing the intent despite the effects it reaps."
In thanking Ms. Mulholland for her session on “We Shall Not Be Moved” and the Freedom Rider movement, junior Litchfield Ajavon wrote, “Seeing your work and hearing your story today made me realize that ‘I can do all thing through Christ who gives me strength.’ I am moved by your great work, and now my thinking towards adversity is that if Ms. Mulholland and ‘The Great America’ can get through the tough times of segregation, I too can get through all of my problems."