Community comes together to recognize Martin Luther King Jr.


Nick Eddinger

Students listen intently to the speakers at the Martin Luther King Jr. Day assembly held on Jan.17.

Natalie Jew, Longform Managing Editor

As the choir started singing “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” known as the “Black National Anthem,” by James Weldon Johnson, students settled down to listen.

On Jan. 17, students walked into the Schluntz Gymnasium for the annual Martin Luther King Jr. assembly.

“Today we celebrated Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day at Brookline High School,” Headmaster Anthony Meyer said in his speech. “It is incredibly rare for us to gather. This is sacred time together.”

To Meyer, the assembly was not an event that students should forget the next day, but something they should take with them.

“We celebrate MLK Day to think together about race and racism, justice and injustice, love and hate. Tomorrow, there is a temptation to leave this behind,” Meyer said. “We need not to see our MLK Day as a celebration solely for and about our African American or students of color. It is an essential common experience for all of us. The work of being a more just, appreciative and inclusive school community is work we all must own.”

In her reading of “Praise Song for the Day” by Elizabeth Alexander, a poem written for former President Barack Obama’s inauguration about everyday American people of all races, Associate Dean Melanee Alexander expressed that same idea.

“Praise song is a poetic form in Africa. It’s an offering of gratitude, of commendation and captures the essence of what or who is being praised,” Alexander said. “I choose this poem because I believe that no matter who we are, no matter where we are coming from, our perspective—we can all relate to the moments that the poet points out to us.”

To senior Griffy Estime, one of the readers of “Still I Rise” by Maya Angelou, alongside seniors Shaniyah Clouden and Alana Roach, the assembly gave students a window into her culture, one which they may not get anywhere else.

“It  has to do with my own history. At the high school, you don’t hear much about Black history. When we go into the class we have seconds on other people’s history—whether it’s Black history, Asian history—but then when it’s White history it’s prolonged for months,” Estime said. “The people of color—we get seconds, so that mandatory assembly needs to be there.”

For Estime, the poem she read, “Still I Rise,” is true for her and her friends.

“We can relate to it,” Estime said, “You still have to be strong, even though this world isn’t rooting for you, and that’s what the poem captures.”

In her poem, senior Konah Brownell spoke to what it is like to be a woman of color.

“After all their tears have come we must never go back, never again. We need to wake up and stand up as people of color. We need to speak up until oppression is over,” Brownell said. “They tell us all we are are talks against us. They fear us, they view us by the shades of our skin. They try their best to keep us in shackles and chains. We’re told we’re not good enough, we’re not light enough, we’re not pretty enough. The truth is we’re just not White enough.”

In a poem she wrote, titled “Glass Half Full,” senior Jordan Dias-Gaylor said that despite the progress Martin Luther King made, there is still more left to do.

“I know there’s still light and good in this world, more people speak up and girls love their girls. Our schools get mixed up and our colors swirl, but there’s so much more that’s left to be done,” Dias-Gaylor said. “We can’t just see the glass half full. Our work here is not yet done.”

The assembly ended with “Glory” by John Roger Stephens and Lonnie Rashid Lynn, sung by the choir. After leaving the assembly, Assistant Headmaster Hal Mason wanted students to take something away from it.

“Use a little of the light you saw today—be it from the joyous voice of Gianna (DiMarco), or from the joyous voice of the chorus, or from the inspirational words from Dean Alexander or Headmaster Meyer, or from the inspirational voices of Jordan (Diaz-Gaylor) and Konah (Brownell),” Mason said. “Take that light with you today as you leave.”