January 17, 2023
Assembly Reflects on the Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King
To honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, KO held an assembly on Tuesday, January 17. Steve Mitchell, who moderated the event, explained that the efforts to make MLK a national holiday began in 1983 and was officially adopted nationwide by 2000. He said national holidays had lost their significance over the years, so he hoped this assembly would allow the audience to reflect on the original intent. “The legacy of Dr. Kings is not about peace,” he said. “It’s about justice. Although peace is the goal, justice comes first, and that is what we are here to talk about today.”
The panel included teachers and students who reflected on the impact of Dr. King on their lives. Upper School history teacher Ted Levine shared his experience as a college student in Virginia when Dr. King was assassinated in 1968. Levine admitted that he was preoccupied with attending a PGA golf tournament in Greensboro, North Carolina, the following day and not understanding the impact of his death. After he and his friend arrived in Greensboro, the event was canceled, and the town was more or less shut down. “I was unaware of the impact of the tragedy.” Levine exhorted the students to “Be aware.” In Levine’s day as a student, there weren’t deep conversations about race. “It wasn’t part of any conversation s to have a frank reckoning with history in how the nation’s evolution is one of heroic struggle.” He considers today’s generation more conscious of the injustices and that moving our society towards equity is upon their shoulders.
As a mixed-race young man, Middle School teacher Tylon Smith felt the tug between two cultures and races – neither of which he said he was fully accepted. The writings of Malcolm X on Black pride captivated the 17-year Smith, and he felt that Dr. King’s non-violent approach was too soft. “As I grew older and gained some wisdom, I realized how brave and courageous Dr. King is — to be the target of hate and oppression but still hold true to his beliefs and keep the destination at the forefront of his perseverance.”
Growing up in a different generation of Smith and Levine, Jada Asapokhai’s shared that her experience as a young black woman showed the movement toward greater empowerment. “I felt that growing up and speaking out in the name of equality isn’t even a question. Having been taught in the legacy of Dr. King, an agent of change in the civil right movement, has impacted me in a way that is subtle and has been nothing short of revolutionary.”
Lastly, Middle School student Caroline Gauvin spoke about how Dr. King’s legacy has impacted her and her family. The fact that she was in the assembly speaking to the crowd is a testament to his legacy, she said, and his example gave her the courage to speak. One lesson she learned from King was to use her words wisely. “If I am filled with hate because of how somebody treated me, MLK has shown me that I need to approach that in a non-violent and peaceful manner. These lessons through courage, how I use my words, and how he has lived his life so I can live mine will always stick with me for decades and decades of my life, and I hope they stick with all of you, too.”