On Thursday, January 14, 2016, Waynflete’s racial awareness group, RAaW, sponsored the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Upper School Assembly. The assembly featured three speakers: Arlie Schardt, a former journalist for Time Magazine and the grandfather of Josh (’17) and Tobias (’24) Lodish; Salim Salim, a native of Mosul Iraq and currently a senior at Deering High School; and Muna Adan, a Muslim American of East African heritage, the sister of Abukar Adan (’13), and currently a student at the University of Southern Maine. Mr. Schardt shared some of his experiences covering the civil rights movement in the South during the 1960s, including his time with Dr. King. Salim and Muna delivered their recently recorded TEDxDirigoTalks, Taking Risks is Risky and Forgive Me respectively.
Members of RAaW spoke at the assembly as well. Caroline Hastings (’17) introduced the assembly, Josh introduced his grandfather, Christian Kabongo (’16) introduced Salim, Mary Acheson-Field (’17) introduced Muna, and Najma Abdullahi (’18), Tia Werah (’18), and Isabel Floyd (’16) closed the assembly.
Mr. Schardt ended his assembly talk by calling on the students “to keep on fighting.” Together the speakers at assembly give hope that there is fight in the younger generation as long as injustice exists. Mr. Schardt also visited classes on Thursday and Friday and attended a RAaW meeting. At the meeting, he shared many historical artifacts from the 50s and 60s, including his reporter’s notebook from April 4, 1968, the day Dr. King was assassinated. Both Mr. Schardt and the students expressed great satisfaction and inspiration about their time together.
A video of Mr. Schardt’s assembly talk is posted below. Also posted below are Salim and Muna’s Tedtalks. Following the videos are two student reflections on the assembly.
(Video by Jesse Brooks and Shuhao Liu)
Student Reflections on the MLK Assembly
Najma Abdullahi ’18
The assembly was moving. Each one of the speakers left me with a lesson and another reason to continue with my passion for social justice. I was especially moved by Muna’s poem because I could directly relate. It felt like there was a light on every Black Muslim woman in the crowd. It also felt like my story was being shared with a community who I didn’t know cared about what I went through.
Mr. Schardt’s words reminded me of how little we have come and how much we still need to go. He came to our RAaW meeting on Friday and shared newspapers from the Civil Rights era. The headlines and stories were eerily familiar and bothered me.
Our hope in RAaW for the assembly was to have speakers from different backgrounds and ages to engage the crowd. The assembly was a success, and it was truly remarkable.
Shuhao Liu ’18
As an international student growing up in a different country, I do not have the same cultural background and knowledge about the racial problems in the U.S. as many other Waynflete pupils. However, I have learned a lot about the history of racial conflict in this country, and I’m aware that it still exists today. Therefore, I’d like to share my own experience and thoughts on this topic as a reflection on this year’s MLK Assembly.
I was around eleven when I first learned about Martin Luther King Jr. Before that, slavery and racial discrimination were just words that I’ve read but could not understand. In fact, although I learned more about that history, including the Civil Rights Movement, later on at school and through reading, it was still difficult for me to really understand any part of it. China is not a country of immigrants. Back home, “race” is nothing more than a concept.
There are, however, many different ethnic groups in different parts of China. In the past centuries, Chinese people have always been the “superpower” dominating those small factions or groups. Sadly, it is still true today: the Chinese government retains its control while a few minority groups like the Tibetans are trying to gain independence. Nowadays, as far as I know, the cultural osmosis is stronger than it has ever been, and the new generations of those minority ethnic groups are losing their own cultural identity fairly quickly. But again, since technically no other race has lived on the land of China, we don’t have the same problems as American people have, and we can’t possibly understand the situation in the U.S. unless we are here.
It was not until last year when I went to an African-American private school in Atlanta as an exchange student that I really learned about the background and the impact of Martin Luther King Jr.’s work. Last year before MLK day, we watched several documentary films about King’s life and his great contribution in the Civil Rights Movement. I was indignant over the inhuman events that took place in the South, and I can see the situation has improved a lot since. However, news about black teenagers’ deaths as the result of police abuse breaks constantly. This proves that the many people in this country still possess racist thoughts and keep passing them on to their children. I think it is very important to educate students at school, promoting liberal personalities to overcome the potential bad influence of some families. I’m glad this is what Waynflete is trying to do, and I truly feel the friendly environment resulting from its efforts.
Going back to the Waynflete MLK Assembly, the speech made by a senior at Deering High School really resonated for me. His family came to the U.S. from Iraq when he was in sixth grade. Because of the challenges he had with language, he had to face mockings and criticism from his classmates everyday. However, he rallied himself and proved all of the critics wrong by his outstanding achievements. His courage is admirable. But the fact that so many people nowadays are still judging people by their appearances or religions and thus treating them unfairly shocked me. The responsibility to remove the prejudice in this society does not belong to those who are being discriminated against. One should never ever need to work exceptionally hard just to earn the respect that every human being deserves. It is really hard to imagine that people like him have had to live under tremendous pressure everyday. And the only way to change this is that everyone changes his or her own point of view.
Unlike other countries, the United States, except for the native people, is entirely a country of immigrants. In fact, without immigrants from all over the world, this country could never exist as it does today. And it is its diversity and tolerance that attracts more and more people to live here. Freedom, as the most important value in this country, should not just be a slogan; it needs everyone’s active support to be meaningful.