Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day at Oldfields School
If you ask current high school students "What does MLK Day mean to you?", many will probably reply "a day off from school!" That is not the case here at Oldfields! First of all, as a boarding school , we have regular classes today. At first students might be disappointed not to get the long weekend, but after being here a year or two, they realize it is still a very special day. It is a unique chance to come together as a community to remember, commemorate, learn about, and celebrate an amazing man and what he stood for, which ultimately is much more rewarding than sleeping in and watching Netflix.
This year's MLK day began with our own Director of Admission Shanique Garcia sharing a memory from her days as a young student at St. Paul's boarding school in New Hampshire. In 1990, as hard as it is to imagine, New Hampshire was one of three states that still had not made MLK day an official holiday. As one of the few brown faces in her class, Shanique was encouraged that her entire school community as well as the surrounding public school community felt strongly this had to change. The activist inside Shanique came alive. They organized a march on the capital in Concord to present their petition to the Governor. Their efforts received local media attention and even attracted the attention of Jesse Jackson, whom Shanique got to meet when he spoke at nearby Notre Dame College. After marching six miles in freezing, snowy conditions, they found out the Governor was "out for the day." They presented their petition to whomever would listen and returned to their campus.
Fast forward ten years, when Shanique received a telephone call from her former diversity director. He told her the state had finally recognized Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, and it all began with their march so many years before. Shanique shared with OS students how wonderful it was to be part of something that mattered and to realize positive change due to your own actions, even if that change took longer than it should have.
An assembly created by the Black Awareness Club (BAC) is the highlight of Oldfields' MLK Day tradition. Past years included speakers on Black Lives Matter movement, alumnae presentations, and even an all-school field trip to see the movie, Selma.
This year's BAC assembly covered a lot of ground. Below are just some of the topics addressed:
- Video clips from current students clarified beliefs and myths surrounding slavery. Many people believe slavery is a thing of the past. However, there are more slaves around the world today than at any previous point in history. Slaves are predominantly women and children, with 10,000 slaves estimated to be here in the United States.
- Oldfields and Brown University graduate, Brittany King '08, shared some of her experiences in learning how to advocate for herself as an African- American woman both at Brown and as Study Coordinator Apprentice at Johns Hopkins University.
- BAC members also treated us to a performance of social dances in the U.S. through the decades.
- The program concluded with a rendition of "We are the World" sung by BAC and special guest appearance by Volleyball and Basketball Coach Bez Wallace.
It was obvious that a lot of caring and hard work went into today's assembly. Thank you, BAC!