Last week, the entire Webb community gathered in the crossroads for an assembly honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. On January 20, MLK Day, several Webb faculty members and students gave speeches about a person or group who they believe embodies the spirit of Dr. King. The assembly took place during office hours, where students had the opportunity to listen to members of the Webb community.
Webb held the Honor Symposium on this day last year, taking time to honor MLK through lessons on self, community, and responsibility. However, instead of cancelling a full day of classes for this event this year, the 30-minute assembly focused solely on King, his life, and his achievements and his impact.
Students around the country are typically given this day off in remembrance of Dr. King; however, Webb students came together on this day to remember him through an informational lecture. This assembly allowed students to be more informed on Dr. King’s impact and spirit and to understand why Dr. King is celebrated on this national holiday.
Martin Luther King Jr. Day is celebrated as a federal holiday on the third Monday of January, in honor of King’s birthday on the 15th. The holiday is a way to promote rights for racial minorities and continue to spread the message that Dr. King gave his life fighting for. This year, 2020, marks the 25th anniversary of MLK Day.
At 9:55 a.m., a piano arrangement of “We Shall Overcome” by Roy Zhang (‘22) kicked off the assembly. The assembly then moved to a Brass Octet directed by Linda Silva, Director of Instrumental Music, featuring Ryan Stacy (‘21), Justin Martin (‘20), Nikhil Jindal (‘22), Jeffrey Baek (‘23), Falcon Hu (‘23), Sara Hagiwara (‘20), and Matthew Gooch (‘22).
John Choi, science department faculty, began the event with his impactful opener on diversity and inclusivity. He shared some stories from his own life as he began the discussion on the idea of service and how it could connect back to the Webb community. He emphasized the importance of the ideas of equality that Dr. King fought for, instead of just him as a person, to show how much of an impact he has made around the world.
“I wanted to honor Dr. King’s work and not dilute his message by avoiding the topic of oppression, prejudice, injustice, and sacrifice,” said Mr. Choi. “I wanted to be thoughtful and intentional about getting our community to reflect and think critically about what we are doing or not doing to fulfill his vision. Positive change is only possible with repeated opportunities to address topics and incidences of equity and inclusion through school. Seeds that are planted can only grow into a plant with repeated watering. That’s coming from a Biology teacher. ”
Following Mr. Choi were student representatives Isabella Llorens (‘22), Janitza Luna (‘20), Hunter Lange (‘22). Malick Mbengue, language department faculty, and James Huerta, humanities department faculty joined them at the podium as well. Instead of focusing on only Dr. King, these advocates spoke about other individuals and groups who encompass King’s spirit but do not receive the same recognition. More cultures and stories were shared to highlight Dr. King’s long-lasting effect.
After Ashley Fu (‘20) sang “Let There Be Peace on Earth,” Taylor Stockdale, Head of Schools, shared a personal story about his memorable elementary school teacher who represented the MLK spirit, emphasizing the significance of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
“It was an awesome experience for me to perform on such a memorable day and spread the MLK spirit’s message through my music. It was emotional to see the entire community coming together on this special day,” Ashley said.
Finally, Christopher Haliburton (‘20) and Amanda Wang (‘20) finished off the assembly by reciting a poem excerpt and leading discussions by posing an MLK challenge. They challenged the Webb community to answer some questions on the themes that were covered. Slips of paper with this challenge are outside of the dean’s office for any students or faculty who wish to participate.
“I liked the speeches by Isabella, Janitza, and Hunter talking about different groups of people seeking and impacting change in the world,” Alex Xiao (‘21) said. “Their speeches showed everyone is capable of causing and initiating change. In my opinion, the MLK assembly this year was definitely better than last year’s because we didn’t only focus on what MLK did but how he impacted others to do better in the world.”
An important aspect of Webb is the inclusivity it fosters, so hosting events such as the MLK assembly are a necessary way to enforce these ideals. It gives students and faculty a platform for information on the subject to allow them to take steps towards change beyond the Webb community.