Community Honors Dr. King at Morning Exes

Parker’s community of teachers and learners recently honored the life and work of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in two special Morning Exes on Monday and Wednesday of this week.

Upper School Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Coordinator Rolanda Shepard opened the first event on Monday, January 16 with a reminder that Dr. King’s vision was one of inclusion. “Inclusion is what you see represented on stage today,” she announced, motioning to the representatives from each of the Upper School’s 11 affinity groups sharing the stage with her.

Students from each group then took turns introducing their affinity group and spoke about heroes/heroines past and present who were particularly relevant to their group.

Students from the South Asian Student Alliance shared more about lawyer and political activist Mahatma Gandhi and actress, comedian and screenwriter/producer Mindy Kaling. Members of the Men of Color and Heritage Alliance mentioned Kiyoshi Kuromiya as one of the founders of the Gay Liberation Front in Philadelphia and My Block My Hood My City CEO and Founder Jahmal Cole. Representatives from the Black Student Union noted the impact of Shirley Chisholm, the first Black woman elected to Congress, and Raphael Warnock, the first African-American senator to represent Georgia; their peers from the Asian Alliance cited politician/activist Patsy Mink and Dear Asian Youth Founder Stephanie Hu.

Journalist/activist Jovita Idár and U.S. Representative from New York Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez were the focus of remarks from members of the Organization of Latin American Students. The Women of Color Affinity introduced Black lesbian and civil rights activist Audre Lorde and pro tennis player Naomi Osaka. Members of the Jewish Student Connection shared the story of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel’s work and praised Georgia Senator Jon Ossoff. The Women’s Affinity Group shined a spotlight on Julian of Norwich, the first woman credited as an author of an English book, as well as actress and UN Goodwill Ambassador Emma Watson. The Muslim Student Association honored the Prophet Muhammed pbuh and Malala Yousafzi, who has emerged as an international symbol of the fight for girls’ education.

The Multiracial Affinity Group shared more about Richard and Mildred Loving, a mixed-race couple arrested in 1958 for violating Virginia’s Racial Integrity Act of 1924, and the 44th President of the U.S. Barack Obama. The PRIDE affinity group recognized Sylvia Rivera for her work advancing rights for transgender people in the past and RuPaul for doing the same currently.

Next, students in the Lower and Intermediate Schools gathered on Wednesday, January 18 to consider the life and work of Dr. King. Head of Lower School Kimeri Swanson-Beck and Head of Intermediate and Middle School Vahn Phayprasert read several quotes from Dr. King and discussed “what he shows with his words and actions.”

The 1st grade showed a video they had created, “What Does It Mean to be Fair?” This video raised terms like fairness and equality for discussion, and 1st graders noted places and objects around the school and gave their opinions on their “fairness.” One example was the use of Braille on signs around the school, which shows the school’s desire that those with visual impairments have equal access.

Students in Brittney Washington’s 2nd grade class performed a dramatic poetry reading for their peers. Finally, Music teacher Maria Foustalieraki led the entire Heller Auditorium in a rendition of “This Little Light of Mine.”

Parker thanks all the community members who came together for these special Morning Exes.
Francis W. Parker School educates students to think and act with empathy, courage and clarity as responsible citizens and leaders in a diverse democratic society and global community.