Exploring the Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The Upper School will honor the spirit of Dr. King by exploring his legacy and that of the civil rights movement he led in a variety of ways during the second semester.

Waynflete’s Diversity and Equity Faculty Committee has invited students to add their voices to the chorus of Americans supporting social justice and racial equality in our nation by entering themselves for consideration of the second annual Spirit of Martin Luther King, Jr. Award.  The Award is an opportunity for students to engage in dialogue that looks for ways to end oppression, to affirm basic civil rights, and to call for increased opportunity for all people by submitting an essay in response to the following prompt:

Martin Luther King Jr.’s message about justice and social equality is as important today as it was when he first delivered the “I Have a Dream” speech—the most familiar version in August, 1963. Though American society has undergone dramatic changes since the Civil Rights era, recent events illustrate that we have yet to achieve racial equality in the United States and that perceptions about a “post-racial” society are erroneous and perhaps dangerous.  In no more than 500 words, write about your own understanding of or experience with racial inequality. Has there ever been a moment in which you realized how much work we have left to do to achieve racial equality? Tell us about it.

Here is a link to the full application form.

The Spirit Award will kick off a series of events this semester designed to help students to understand what it means to live in America today as we seek, in the words of Dr. King, to “live out the true meaning of (our) creed.”  During the week before the MLK holiday, Waynflete’s racial awareness group (RAaW) will sponsor an assembly and an advising lunch discussion celebrating the work of Dr. King and the civil rights movement he led.  A week later, Mary Bonauto will speak at assembly about her lifetime of work as a civil right advocate.  Last spring, Ms. Bonauto, an attorney, argued successfully before the United States Supreme Court that state bans on same-sex marriage are unconstitutional, a decision that is widely regarded as one of the most significant in the modern era of the Supreme Court.

In March, Waynflete and Maine Seeds of Peace are hosting the first New England Youth Identity Summit (NEYIS).  The Summit will attract students and educators from schools across New England and beyond for a conference designed to spark meaningful conversations about identity, diversity, and community.  The events kicks off on Friday evening, March 11, at the Portland Public Library with a poetry, music, and theater performance by the NYC-based Dialogue Arts Project (DAP). DAP creates experiences that help individuals collaborate and communicate across lines of social identity.  Waynflete will host Saturday’s program, which features speakers, music and spoken-word performances, student-led workshops, and breakout sessions for both students and educators.  More information about NEYIS will follow soon.

We are also working out details for two other assembly speakers: Margo Walsh and Don Sawyer.  Margo is a Waynflete alum, class of 1982.  After a successful career with Goldman Sachs, Ms. Walsh started MaineWorks, which is an “innovative staffing company with a compassionate and community-rooted mission to support the thriving industrial construction industry in Maine while positively affecting the lives of our employees.”  A “temporary labor staffing company,” its employees “are reentering the workforce and face real barriers to employment.”

Dr. Sawyer is an African American sociology professor at Quinnipiac University who teaches classes, among others, on the sociology of race and hip hop music.  He has visited Waynflete twice before, and he Skyped in this fall to the Upper School Faculty Retreat.  In addition to speaking at Waynflete, Dr. Sawyer will be the keynote speaker at the Identity Summit as well as lead a workshop or two.

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