PA Remembers Dr. King With ASM, Workshops: Students, Faculty and Visitors Collaborate

Phillips Academy held a series of events this past Monday, January 15 to commemorate the life of the civil rights activist Martin Luther King, Jr. On Monday morning students attended an All-School Meeting featuring the keynote speaker Chris Abani, a Nigerian political activist who received several awards for his recent book Graceland. During his speech, Mr. Abani emphasized the idea of love. He believes that love does not necessarily involve deep, emotional sentiments but rather a desire to help others before helping oneself. “Chris Abani had a wonderful way of encouraging love and looking beyond the surface. There were about 70 to 80 people that showed up for the open house, and he was just as engaging as he was in the morning,” said Linda Griffith, Dean of the CAMD Office. After the All-School Meeting, students and faculty divided to partake in separate activities. Juniors attended the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Historical Perspective discussion in Kemper Auditorium, while Lowers watched a presentation by Michael Fowlin. Uppers and Seniors participated in different workshops or community service projects, including the Corpus Christi AIDS Residence, the Lawrence Boys’ and Girls’ Club, Neighbors in Need, and the Sabre Foundation. These programs were made possible through a collaborative effort between student leaders and faculty members. Kelicia Hollis ’08 served as one of these student leaders in the workshop called “VH1 Top 40 Videos: Messages in Music Videos”. Participants of this program viewed several recently released music videos and later engaged in a discussion about the impacts of such media on teenagers. Jen Downing ’08 said that she participated in the MLK Jr. Day Kids’ Fair, held at the Case Memorial Cage. She and other students helped kids from ages four through 12 make their way around the fair’s five stations. At the various stations, students played games, did art projects, read a children’s book about Martin Luther King, Jr. and learned songs about tolerance. Michael Fowlin’s performance “You Don’t Know Me Until You Know Me” addressed several different issues, revolving around the main theme of prejudice. He played the roles of characters dealing with these different issues, which included racism, disabilities, and gender discrimination. In response to Fowlin’s show, Anna Burgess ’09 said, “He did a good job playing the different characters…He said a lot of things that people thought but never actually said.” Following Mr. Fowlin’s show, Lowers were required to attend their Life Issues classes in order to discuss the ideas presented throughout the day. While some students said that the Life Issues class was a good way to share one’s thoughts about the day, others expressed regret for having to attend such a class. Alysha Sayall ’09 said, “Because the performance was so emotion-provoking, I noticed that it was something that people didn’t want to talk about afterwards, just think about.” The idea of a wearing a “mask” proved to be a recurring theme in both the one-man show by Michael Fowlin and a talk with Kenji Yoshino, a law professor at Yale and author of the book “Covering: The Hidden Assault on our Civil Rights.” According to the New Yorker, “Exploring the history of civil rights litigation in the United States, Yoshino concludes that courts have too often focused on individuals’ capacity to assimilate, rather than on the legitimacy of the demand that they do so.” Mr. Yoshino defined the term “covering” not as concealing one’s identity, but as veiling an aspect of a person’s true self and conforming to the “mainstream,” even though the person’s secret may already be revealed. To exemplify “covering,” Yoshino cited former President Roosevelt. President Roosevelt sat behind a desk to hide the image of his disability so that people would “focus on his more conventionally presidential qualities,” despite the fact that everyone knew he was confined to a wheelchair. In response to the entire Martin Luther King, Jr. Day program, William Koven ’08 said, “I don’t think I’ve learned much of anything new, but I do think the program is a good idea. The speakers we’ve had have been interesting and certainly made me think, and I’ve enjoyed the workshops I’ve had to do.” Though the day did not emphasize the life of Martin Luther King Jr., the program “instigated change more than just a lecture on MLK would,” said Lydia Smith ’09. She also said, “If we just had the day off, nobody would really think about why this was a holiday.” For firsthand accounts of some of the workshops, see Entertainment, Page 5.