Each year on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Proctor foregoes a regular class schedule, instead celebrating the work of Dr. King and applying lessons learned from his teachings to our community. Monday’s programming was led by the D.I.V.E.R.S.I.T.Y committee, and proved to be a powerful experience as we reflected on the relationship between privilege and injustice in our society.
After Wari Isaac '16 read a poem on Dr. King’s life, the Jazz/Rock Ensemble shared a rendition of Sam Cooke's 1963 hit, "A Change is Gonna Come". We then sat with our advisories and watched Selma, the 2014 award winning film chronicling Martin Luther King, Jr’s campaign to secure equal voting rights for African-Americans in Alabama in 1965.
Discussions within advisories following the film allowed valuable time to process the role racism plays in our society, and in our school. Honest self-reflections about our individual privilege laid the foundation for a post-lunch conversation with Dr. Omari Jackson (a sociology professor at Colby-Sawyer College focusing his own research on the role of the black middle class in American society).
Dr. Jackson challenged us to be activists every day, and as we do so, to keep Dr. King’s legacy in mind. He shared, “We cannot wait for the opportune time to make a difference; to wait for the right time - the time is now. The time is always now to make a difference.”
He continued, “We must always be marching forward to make society a better place for our children, and for our children’s children...We need to be activists to create opportunities for others who do not have the same opportunities we have.” This particular message struck a chord within the Proctor community. We are community of privileged individuals. Yes, there are many of us who have experienced struggles in our lifetime. There is poverty within our community. There is injustice within our community. There is ignorance and racism within our imperfect community. But the simple fact remains: we are members of the Proctor community which makes us some of the most privileged individuals in the world.
Dr. Jackson asked us to reflect on our privilege and challenged us to use our privilege to help others, “Be thankful for your privilege, you do not need to feel guilty for what you have been given. But you have been afforded the opportunity to make a difference in this world because of your privilege. Do it!”
As we return to a normal class schedule this morning with bitterly cold northern winds blowing snow around campus, we do so with a changed mindset. We seek to take the ideals we know to be true and to act as we repeatedly replay Dr. King’s words in our heads, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’”