Community High School students honored the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. through poetry, prose and dance during the school’s annual MLK assembly at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church last week.
CHS Dean Marci Tuzinsky said it’s important to honor King every year to ensure that students have the chance to share their voices.
“By having the students plan and lead the event, we aim to keep it relevant and real, yet at the same time inspire our school to continue the work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.,” she said.
The day’s keynote speaker was Dr. Larry Rowley, an assistant professor of higher education at the University of Michigan’s Department of Afroamerican and African Studies.
Rowley said society today faces three overarching challenges: terrorism, torture, and a lack of trust, which prevents community-building. Then he related those challenges to concepts imbedded in King’s philosophy and commitment to social justice, equality, and community-building: a belief in the sacredness of all human beings; non-violent resistance of social injustice; and an everlasting pursuit of the beloved community.
He said that although King realized the fallen nature of people, he still believed in building community.
“We have to be radical idealists, if you will,” he said.
Rowley said a school community should dedicate itself to pursuing the kinds of ideals that Dr. King lived and ultimately died fighting on behalf of.
“The students that we prepare to go out into the world are the ones that have the heaviest burden to carry,” he said. “The legacy we leave to young people and the way we prepare them to inherit that legacy is ultimately what counts. Fundamentally that’s what education is about, that’s what teaching is about, and that’s what mentoring is about.”
He encouraged students to go outside their comfort zones every day, and to remember that the things that derive from terror, torture and a lack of trust are everyone’s responsibility to fix.
Junior Rhia Linders, who read a poem that reflected King’s ideals, said it’s important for students to honor the civil rights leader at such assemblies every year.
“I feel like we’re not as diverse as we should be,” she said, “and it’s very good to connect and for everyone to feel welcome.”