Martin Luther King, Jr. Day assembly features films in place of speaker


Boraan Abdulkarim

Seniors Charlie Rosenblum, Ysabella Johnson, Alicia Zhang, juniors Bella Martinez, Evva Parsons, Jesus Vega, Emma Rodgerson, and freshman Lutalo Jones discuss the Martin Luther King Jr. Day assembly. “It’s an experience to talk about it, and keep relearning history and bring in new perspectives,” Rosenblum said.

Year after year, students shuffle into the Briggs Gymnasium, opening up their ears and their minds to the year’s designated speaker for the Martin Luther King Jr. Assembly. This year, however, Intercultural Club members decided on a new twist to the tradition, while still fulfilling the same original goals the assembly stands to achieve.

The change this year brought? Individual student choice. “Any assembly can get kind of stale if we do the same thing year after year. This year, in planning, [IC] thought of something very different,” Upper School Diversity Dean Karen Dye said. “[IC members] were really trying to think of something that would capture all the students’ attention and be something that they really would want to get engaged in,” Dye said. The assembly is no longer in Briggs Gymnasium, and there is no speaker. Instead, every student will be given a varied list of movies to select from, and will view the movie with other students who have chosen the same movie. They then will discuss the movie with the peers who had watched it.

The goal of this annual event is “to have an impact on [students],” co-president of IC Charlie Rosenblum said. Rosenblum also noticed the event “bring[s] up topics that we don’t always talk about or come across in our community.”

Dye believes the event “highlights a lot of the things that SPA believes in such as equality, equity, diversity, inclusiveness, peace, love, all of those things, that’s what MLK embodies.”

Sophomore Isabelle Saul-Hughes sees the MLK day assembly as one for “raising awareness of different types of identities and aspects.”

Junior Afsar Sandozi also sees awareness as an important aspect of the assembly. “Awareness is a big thing. People think because SPA is such a small school that they kind of keep racism in hushed tones, even though no matter where you go, it’s always going to be there. So this is a good wake up call in reminding people. Even though they don’t want to admit that it’s there, it still is,” she said.

“We like to sweep things under the rug or pretend that they don’t exist, or maybe we don’t see that they exist because of the nature of our school,” co-president of IC Ysabella Johnson said. Johnson believes the purpose of the MLK event is to “have a day to remember not only how far we’ve come but how far we need to continue to go.”

“It’s not necessarily that the problems are over,” Johnson continued, “but that they are different and we can apply nonviolent acts for standing up for what you believe in a context that fits 2014.”

Dye also sees value in keeping such issues in mind with the assembly and the discussion that follows. “Processing it in more depth than just presentation or celebration is really important; it has to be part of our education,” she said.

“What we do is we have these one stop shop events that we sit and do once a year, then it’s done, then there’s no conscious thought about it afterwards. The role of the discussions afterwards is to make sure that it’s not just that we’re going to present this and not process it, but that we really have some engagement in what we’re looking at,” Dye continued.

The MLK day assembly was postponed due to inclement weather and the closing of school on Jan. 27, the day film screenings were scheduled to happen. A new date for the event has still not been finalized, but will be rescheduled.

“I’m super excited, especially about how it’s not just about Martin Luther King Jr., but also about identity as a whole,” Saul-Hughes said.