In past years, Concord Academy has honored Martin Luther King Jr. Day (MLK Day) with a day dedicated to student and faculty-led workshops, community discussions, and all-school programming organized by the C&E Office. The schedule would feature a keynote speaker and often include a film screening, followed by discussions. This year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, CA’s observance of MLK Day looked quite different.
One of the most noticeable changes to the day was its format, as this was the first time that the CA community engaged in MLK Day programming over Zoom. Additionally, MLK Day was not observed on the official date of the holiday – the third Monday of January – as it had been in years past. In accordance with the new CA STAC schedule, end-of-semester assessments were held during the third week of January, prompting CA leadership to postpone the MLK Day celebration until January 27.
The theme of this year’s programming was “Infinite Hope: Imagining Black Futures.” The inspiration for this focus came from a speech that Dr. King delivered in 1968, where he said that “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.” Events scheduled by the C&E Office included workshops, panels, and Q&A sessions that centered Black liberation and sought to spark reflection and action.
The day began with a welcome and introduction from Sarah Yeh, Interim Head of School, and Rob Munro, Dean of Academic Program and Equity. Next, all members of the community attended a panel discussion featuring five guests, each of whom is a leader of a BIPOC-centered Boston-based organization. Members of the CA community were able to submit questions for the panelists to anwer and the resulting discussion was both insightful and informative. Panelists shared how they have been working to center Black liberation in their activism and organizing, and spoke about how they hold themselves and their organizations accountable.
Following the panel, students had the opportunity to participate in one of eight workshops organized by the C&E Office. This year’s programs included conversations led by each of the Boston-based organizers, a presentation by CA alumna Daysha Veronica Edewi ‘10, and a film screening of John Lewis: Good Trouble, a documentary about Rep. John Lewis and his lifetime of activism. However, for many, the highlight of the day came in the form of a poetry reading by celebrated writer Danez Smith. Smith is a Black, queer, Poz writer and performer, and they were also this year’s keynote speaker. Reading several poems from their latest book, Homie, Smith delivered a moving performance that captivated the CA community.
To round off a day of deep reflection and purposeful engagement, members of CA’s Women of Color Alliance (WoCA), Men of Color Alliance (MoCA), and Queer People of Color (QPOC) affinity groups had the opportunity to speak with Danez Smith in a more personal setting. During a discussion following Smith’s keynote address, students spoke to them about their writing process and activism, as well as more personal topics, such as attending predominantly white institutions as a queer Black person.
Overall, MLK Day 2021 was engaging and well-received. Students and adults in the community were grateful for the chance to be in community and conversation with one another – albeit virtually – to continue working toward a future of Black liberation.
Photo courtesy of ABC News