An MLK Reflection

The Office of Community and Multicultural Development should be congratulated for an outstanding MLK Day. The most impressive aspect was certainly the keynote speaker, Dr. Roland Fryer, who not only provided a statistical look at race relations, but knew his audience well enough to keep the entire school riveted for nearly an hour. Dr. Fryer is exactly the type of speaker we should continue to have for MLK day, because rather than simply repeating the same tired clichés about the importance of race relations, he presented the issue in a new light and encouraged students to consider the issues of racism in a scientific way. This is an important shift from where our past MLK days have ended up: trading anecdotes about the problem while considering potential solutions. Freyer demonstrated that it is possible to view racism through the lens of science, while still understanding the human side of the issue. We applaud both him and CAMD for providing and excellent foundation for the day. Additionally, the school deserves praise for stepping away from a traditional approach to the holiday. Many organizations focus on the history of the civil rights movement as if it was a struggle that is long gone. The speaker and the various workshops throughout the day enlightened the students to the horrors of racism and injustice that still exist today. This approach to the holiday encouraged students to reflect on the past and also to think about how their lives will play into the ever-changing social landscape of America. The success of the day was more than bringing engaging speakers and presenters to campus, the structure of the day was important as well. Thus, we applaud CAMD’s decision to forgo the fifteen-minute all-school meeting that usually takes place near the end of the day. This meeting did not typically add anything that had not already been said throughout the day – whether at the first all-school or at the workshops and discussions. While the day was emotionally and intellectually powerful, we do have some suggestions. First, Jay Rogers, retired instructor in history, should be invited back every year to discuss his experiences in the civil rights movement with ninth graders. Many of us remember Mr. Roger’s lecture as one of the best aspects of our MLK day experience. Additionally, while we all were able to hear Dr. Fryer speak during the All-School meeting, only a small fraction of students were invited to have lunch with the speaker after the larger event. This lunch, which offered a more intimate setting, allowed students to ask in-depth questions and hear Dr. Fryer elaborate on issues he did not cover during his address to the school. We realize that you cannot bring the whole school into Ropes to ask questions, but perhaps we could have done something like we did for last year’s speaker, Jane Elliot. The evening of MLK day, Ms. Elliot was in Ropes fielding questions from anyone who was interested The school and CAMD deserve credit for an excellent event that did not just concern itself with the history of civil rights, but also showcased current efforts to eradicate the problem of racism.