Annually, on the third Monday of January, countless schools, businesses, banks, and government offices alike here in the US close for Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a holiday created to commemorate a man who has now become synonymous with the American Civil Rights Movement of the mid-twentieth century. Despite the closures nationwide, Concord Academy opts to remain open in order to celebrate MLK and his legacy in through special, non-course related multidisciplinary programming run by the Community and Equity office. This choice allows time for essential discussion and reflection related to Dr. King and his legacy. Yet, even given the profundity of these conversations and workshops, the day seems tokenized due to it remaining bookended by standard courses, homework, and lacking any follow-up programming.
The specialized programming that takes place on the Monday of MLK day revolves around a unique theme that varies year to year and incorporates a keynote speaker, two workshop blocks (with a vast array of options run by faculty, students, and external professionals), and a closing performance. The material that is discussed, although widely valued, is barely used moving forward as it is confined to this day and occurs during a time when students are amidst transitioning into a new semester and for some, wrapping up college applications. The importance of such programming is undeniable, yet its concentration into a single day makes deep discussion and ongoing conversation challenging.
This year’s keynote speaker, Dr. Kellie Carter Jackson, raised many points: one among them being that true change can not be achieved without a certain degree of sacrifice. Yet, this very speech occurred during an isolated event on a national holiday, an event that compromised no time for the regular school schedule. In this respect, we, the CA community, expect students, faculty, and staff to give up time that would be otherwise spent reflecting with family while remaining unwilling to sacrifice any days from our standard academic calendar. Opportunity for follow-up is plentiful, whether that be in C&E-run assemblies, optional extracurricular discussion spaces, during the already allocated special programming week in March known as Spring Session, or integrated into learning in a more comprehensive and cross-subject way as it is on MLK Day.