MLK Day: The Power of One, Part II

Celebrating the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Phillips Academy students enjoyed a break from the daily routine on Monday, attending a variety of special events. A highlight of the day was the appearance of the graduate who helped launch the MLK Day celebrations. Brian Gittens ’89 spoke about the demonstration he organized as a Senior that eventually led to the present celebration of Martin Luther King Day on campus. When Gittens attended Andover, classes and athletics followed the usual schedule on Martin Luther King Day. An All School Meeting held in the evening was the only formal way that the Academy observed the holiday. “It seemed that with all that Martin Luther King Jr. contributed to society, the All School meeting was insufficient, especially when the school espoused diversity and acceptance,” Mr. Gittens said. Acting upon this conviction, Mr. Gittens posted signs on the pillars of Samuel Phillips Hall and sat under them with a radio playing the famous speeches of Martin Luther King Jr. He spent the entire day on the steps of SamPhil, boycotting classes with the hope of bringing more recognition to the holiday. Mr. Gittens emphasized the theme of this year’s event: “The Power of One: Acts that Make a Difference.” He said, “It was an example of the power of one and of what an individual can do. Regardless of what field you practice in, you have to be committed to your beliefs, you have to follow your conscience, and you have to act on your convictions.” Mr. Gittens challenged Phillips Academy students to “find the moral courage to act with conviction… the choice is yours.” Observance of Martin Luther King Day at the Academy included a full schedule of required workshops, assemblies, service opportunities, and group discussions. By devoting the day to these projects, Dean of Community and Multicultural Development Bobby Edwards, who spearheads the effort every year, said he hoped to pique students’ interest and engage them in serious discussion. “Our goal is to offer as much food for thought as can be mustered in the course of one day,” Mr. Edwards said. “And though there always tends to be a certain population that is not inclined to engage, I think that most students leave having gained something positive.”’ The day’s planned activities began at 9:30 a.m., when students gathered by cluster to view “Legacy of a Dream,” a film that chronicled the accomplishments and struggles of Martin Luther King. In addition to covering his role in the civil rights movement, the film also noted his less-famous contributions to the anti-war movement during the Vietnam Era. Following the video presentation, the community broke into small groups for a discussion with their advisors where students had the opportunity to apply the themes of the video to the modern world. The day centered around workshops that students participated in during the late afternoon. Led primarily by faculty members, the workshops ranged from “Does Race Exist?” which probed into issues of race from a scientific perspective, to “Marriage: A Civil Right?” which explored the history of marriage and evaluated the applicability of civil rights legislation to gay marriage in Massachusetts. In addition to discussion, students participated in community service. Buses transported students to the Academy Manor Nursing Home, Corpus Christie AIDS Hospice, the Lawrence Boys’ and Girls’ Club and the Sutton Hill Nursing Home. A number of students also participated in a forum discussion with students from Lawrence, Mass. About 110 students participated in the service projects, Community Service Director Chad Green said.