Activist To Speak at ASM

Michael Patrick MacDonald, a bestselling author and an activist against violence, will provide a local perspective in the keynote address at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day All-School Meeting. MacDonald is the first MLK, Jr. Day speaker to be chosen by a student committee. The MLK, Jr. Day Planning Committee, formed during Spring Term, consisted of 10 students who corresponded via email over the summer and worked with Dean of Community and Multicultural Development Linda Carter Griffith to research potential speakers. According to Griffith, the students decided upon MacDonald by themselves. Kelicia Hollis ’08 was one of the committee’s leaders. She said that the committee wanted to address Andover’s mission statement of “youth from every quarter” by finding a speaker who could provide insight into both socio-economic and cultural diversity. “We don’t often hear white male perspectives on MLK Day,” Hollis said. “It’s a misconception that being white implies privilege.” She also said that the committee found the local perspective particularly interesting, since Boston is so “close to home.” Zahra Bhaiwala ’10, also on the committee, said, “MLK Day is about more than black and white. There’s more to diversity than that.” Hollis spoke highly of MacDonald’s book All Souls. “[The book] is just real and doesn’t beat around the bush.” MacDonald wrote two memoirs: All Souls: A Family Story from Southie, which won an American Book Award, and Easter Rising: An Irish American Coming Up from Under. At the meeting, MacDonald will speak of his life experiences growing up in the South Boston housing projects during the school busing crisis of the 1970’s, when a Massachusetts judge ordered Boston to bus nonwhite students to schools in traditionally white areas such as South Boston to achieve racial balance. MacDonald, who was raised in a poor neighborhood in “Southie,” as the area is known, witnessed firsthand the violent riots that resulted from those school integrations. Four of his siblings died during this time. This chaos inspired MacDonald to found the South Boston Vigil Group, which works with families and young people in Boston’s anti-violence movement, and helps with a gun buyback program. Megan Williams, Instructor in History and Social Science, uses excerpts of MacDonald’s All Souls in her History 300 class. Williams said that the first person account, written from a child’s perspective, was eye-opening to her students. Williams proposed MacDonald as the keynote speaker to the student planning committee. “The message of MLK Jr. Day is broader than how it is generally interpreted, and [MacDonald’s] story is especially relevant for our community as it is a perspective not readily explored,” Williams said.