On Monday, January 20, 2014, Groton School celebrated Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Organized by a combination of Cultural Alliance members, peer counselors, and faculty, the holiday has become a mainstay on the Circle. This year there were multiple events to honor the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Rev. Humphrey hosted a special Sunday Chapel service the day before Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Rev. Humphrey, Michael Ma ‘15, Addie Ewald ‘14, and Malik Jabati ‘15 presented a program consisting of King’s speeches, context for those speeches, and their modern cultural and spiritual applications. The program was well-received, and many students appreciated their chance to hear some of King’s lesser-known speeches. The Chapel service concluded with a prayer written by Dr. King and the singing of “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” commonly referred to as “The Black National Anthem.”
The Sunday Chapel service provided the perfect segue into Monday’s events. Wheeler Parker Jr. arrived to speak about his cousin Emmett Till’s tragic death. Till’s death is considered by some historians to be the spark for the African-American Civil Rights Movement.
Parker’s lecture began at 9:30 a.m. The school was shown a “60 Minutes” story on Emmett Till’s murder before Parker opened the floor for questions. Coincidentally, the questions and answers section lasted for about an hour. Both faculty members and students eagerly questioned Parker on topics ranging from his own personal connection to Till to his ideas on the current state of race in America.
After the morning lecture, students took a quick respite from the day’s events to participate in a school-wide snowball fight on the Circle. The Martin Luther King, Jr. Day snowball fight has become somewhat of a tradition within the student body. It almost had to be canceled this year because all the snow had melted just a few days prior, but snowfall on the two days leading up to Martin Luther King, Jr. Day helped save this annual event.
This year’s snowball fight started as a competition between two teams, Upper School and Lower School; however, the snowball fight quickly devolved into a chaotic free-for-all amongst the students. Ejaaz Jiu ‘15 and Mike Borghi ‘15 announced the fight, and they both thought that it was a success.
The snowball fight began at 12:30 p.m., and the community was scheduled to break into small discussion groups at 1:30 p.m., so students went with clear minds into their groups. There were a total of thirty-four discussion groups, all of which were held in separate locations around the circle. Each group was led by a combination of one or two students and two or three faculty members. The student discussion leaders comprised of peer counselors and board members of the Cultural Alliance.
The discussion groups lasted for approximately one and a half hours and were centered around the theme of exclusion both inside and outside the Circle. The discussion group leaders asked three questions to start off the discussion: Have you ever been excluded? Have you ever excluded someone? And, have you ever witnessed someone being excluded?
The definition of exclusion was intentionally left broad, so almost everyone answered yes for all three questions. After the three questions, the discussion became more free-flowing as students and faculty spoke about the ways in which they have excluded others and been excluded themselves.
Some students were baffled by the insistence on a broad definition of exclusion. Zach Kosnitzky ’15 asked, “Hasn’t everyone been excluded at one point or another?” Joe Gentile ’14 said, “If we include everyone, then we wipe out other views and differences. Those who don’t want to be included will now become newly excluded. I think we should become more accepting, not just including.”
After the discussion groups, some students had afternoon activities. Those who did not were encouraged to visit Pamela Chatterton-Purdy’s exhibit “Icons of the Civil Rights Movement” on display in the de Menil Gallery. The exhibit was opened the day before Martin Luther King, Jr. Day to honor him and other heroes of the movement.
Martin Luther King, Jr. Day concluded without any problems. Evan Long ’14 said that “this was the best MLK Day so far,” and most students agree with him.