Lab community asks, ‘Are we living the dream today?’ at MLK Assembly

Katerina Lopez, Assistant Editor

In honor of Martin Luther King Jr.’s 90th birthday, students, faculty and staff gathered in the Gordon Parks Assembly Hall Jan. 17 to answer the question, “Are we living the dream today?” This was the theme of the assembly organized by the Black Students’ Association. The faculty advisers of BSA also presented a new award to one faculty member and one student who work daily to make Dr. King’s dream a reality.

Sophomore Kennedy Coats and Service Learning Coordinator Hannah Roche received awards.

The assembly was more visual than previous ones, with an opening film created by photography and film teacher Benjamin Jaffe with help from his film class, and an animated version of Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech shown between performances.

A speech from Barbara Ransby focused on answering the theme of the assembly. Dr. Ransby, a historian and professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, examined the definition of “we” in the assembly’s theme, arguing that “we” should include everyone around the world.

“King’s notion of success was to change the world, to change history, to stand up in difficult times and to speak truth to power. Dr. King was a reformer and a radical thinker, a peaceful trouble maker. He argued not for preserving traditional values, but changing many of those values, values that justify and cover up the fundamental inequalities and injustices of our society,” she said. “So in remembering Dr. King this week in what would have been his 90th birthday, I hope we all remember him as a dreamer and a do-er. His dream was a collective dream, and that we define ‘we’ as a inclusive of all of us, not just some of us.”

Among the student performances, Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit” sung by Isha Singh and Sofia Kouri received the most applause.

“We sung that song because we sung it at a concert last year when talking about racial injustice and there’s something so powerful about the dissonance in the song that makes the message even stronger,” Isha said. “We chose it because it doesn’t sugar coat anything and conveys the raw truth of a lot of what happened in our nation’s past.”

Senior Jordyn Mahome chose her piece, an excerpt from “The Anarchy of Colored Girls Assembled in a Riotous Manner,” because she relates to it.

“I chose this piece because I am already familiar with Saidiya Hartman’s work,” Jordyn said. “I enjoyed the theme of a person who won’t grow up to be Martin Luther King, but still in their own way, lives a life in resistance to systems of oppression to strive for his dreams. Because we’re not all going to grow up to be great activists doesn’t mean we can’t live our life in a proactive way.”.

Other student groups that performed included Bel Canto, Jewish Students’ Association, Latinos Unidos, Spectrum, BSA Board and the U-High Jazz Ensemble.

Principal Stephanie Weber closed the assembly with a speech on showing love in a community.