With the theme “Infinite Hope: Imagining Black Future,” this year’s MLK Day happened at CA on January 27. Due to the pandemic, the entire programming of the day went online for the first time. As a result, the school brought a lot of changes and innovations to the design of the programming. Reflecting back on MLK day, this article briefly covers what students enjoyed and found especially inspiring that day.
One of the highlights of this year’s programming is the panel discussion led by BIPOC-centered Boston-based organizations, artists, and activists such as Tony Clark and OJ Slaughter. Cherie Jiraphanphong ’21 sahred, “I really enjoyed this panel discussion because, for me, [in order] to really address the issue of racism and to prevent it from continuing to plague the society, we have to pull in different perspectives and insights.”
Another student, Eric Liu ’21, expressed similar sentiments, stating that the participants’ personal stories about racism helped him better understand the struggles of racial minorities in the U.S. as an international student. Through their diverse opinions and perspectives, Eric better understood how racism is pervasive and systematic in the U.S.
“The unfairness becomes the accepted reality of people, without recognizing the existence of the problem.” Eric noted. To him, this is a very dangerous mindset and as a student leader, he yearns to join efforts on promoting institutional shifts.
The most thrilling part of this year’s programming for many students is the workshop led by Danez Smith, a Black, Queer, Poz writer and performer from St. Paul, Minnesota. In the workshop, Danez performed a series of his poems, including his third collection, “Homie.” Aina Tasso 23’ said excitedly, “I had previously read some of their poems but watching it live and hearing the emotions they put into it, it touched me somewhere and hit different — it’s just so great!”
Ricky Kindu ’22 also found this his favorite workshop. “[It] took into account the state of the world and what needs to be changed,” he commented.
As to how the C&E Office could improve MLK Day programming, students also have different opinions. Cherie had hoped that the school would bring back the opportunity for club heads to organize their own workshops, discussing a multitude of issues surrounding race and how it shapes our society. Cherie gave the example of last year’s linguistics club’s workshop on minority languages and cultures. She said, “the fact that [the organizers] extended racism out of America, and educated others on how it has impacted people not just in a verbal or physical view, but also how it erases a culture and tradition, is very important.”
From a similar perspective, Ricky suggested that perhaps the school could add more workshops, as the more there are, the more likely it is students to find a topic that they’re interested in learning more about.
From the diverse students’ opinions, it is evident that this year’s MLK Day programming, despite being fully online, was still definitely a success. Students found comfort and resonance with the personal stories of our speakers, students who actively participated in discussions about how to tackle racism within our society, and international students became more aware of the racial tensions in the U.S.. The experience inspired a variety of people, and the community looks forward to seeing members initiating actual changes in the near future.