On Monday, January 15, a standing room only crowd filled the Dining Room in Peter Hall for Winsor's 25th Annual Celebration of the Life of the Rev Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Equal parts celebration and reflection, the event was a powerful reminder that we can each play a role in ensuring equality, dignity and justice prevail in our own communities and beyond.
Organized by the Winsor Parents' Association and the Parent Network for Diversity (PND), the program centered around the theme of building bridges and strengthening communities, and featured reflections and performances by Winsor students, parents, faculty, staff, alumnae and friends, and remarks from special guest speaker Tomiko Brown-Nagin, Harvard University Professor and OAH Distinguished Lecturer.
Captivating the room, Brown-Nagin opened with a reminder that once upon a time, legal discrimination in this country was widespread and extended well beyond race. "Dr. King fought to ban discrimination in all areas...that's why he's so special," she explained. He was a resilient and empathetic seeker of justice with a global perspective, and because of that, "we are all the beneficiaries of King's redemptive work."
As a child growing up in South Carolina, Brown-Nagin benefitted directly from desegregation and the resulting improvement in the quality of her own education. "Dr. King stood up for me. Which is why I am happy to stand up for others." Acknowledging justice as ongoing work, she closed with King's timeless words, "Life's most persistent and urgent question is, 'What are you doing for others?"
Dehlia Umunna P'20 personified empowerment, calling on the audience to face discord and resentment with strength and positive action. Herself an immigrant, born in England to a Nigerian father and Somalian mother, she is the first woman of African descent to be appointed a professor of law at Harvard, and finds purpose in supporting and creating opportunities for others. "Dr. King would want us to do something," she said. "I urge you to become a bridge builder. Don't stand by and don't be silent."
Selina Li '18 appealed to her peers to have the courage to speak their truth. "Find your voice, and who you are, and who you hope to become," and then speak up, she implored. "Our actions and our voices are imperative. We can disrupt oppression." The daughter of a single, immigrant mother and a first generation student in the United States, she expressed gratitude for "the numerous hands that lifted me up so I could stand here today."
Rachel Casseus '02 founded her own immigration law firm after witnessing the unjust treatment of immigrant scientists and researchers doing groundbreaking work. The daughter of Haitian immigrants, she encourages others to stand up and fight for what they believe. "You can change people's lives in ways you never thought you could." With genuine emotion, she also addressed history teacher Julian Braxton, who was standing at the back of the room. "Thank you for awakening in us the concept that we need to learn from history so as not to repeat it."
Caroline Bonnevie '19 was inspirational as shared how her participation in the social justice program at Rosie's Place in Boston "opened my eyes to the incorrect assumptions I made about the women I served [at the shelter]...and helped me realize the deeper humanity in people." She had a revelation when she readily let a stranger borrow her phone one night – a small gesture that had a significant impact for the woman in need. "Before the program, I would have been one of those people who said no. I would have put in my ear buds and kept walking." The lesson, she says, is simple but essential. "You cannot do everything. But you can do something."
Other highlights of the evening included a passionate delivery of Langston Hugh's Let America Be America Again by Josie Mastandrea '22, Karina Peak '22, Ava Bub '23, Ava Kee '23, Olivia Sarkis '23, Annika Singh '23, Meredith Tagney '23 and Charlotte Jones '22, directed by Jolean Ashman '20. And the Lower School SISTERS dancers performed Corazon sin Cara, directed by Katherine Torres '22 and Ava Hawkins '22, and a step routine directed by Miracle Hodge '22 and Franchesca Vilmenay '22.
The Winsor Inspirational Singing Ensemble (WISE), led by Geoff O'Hara P'19, lifted spirits with two emotional numbers, and closed the evening with a sing along to Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing (Johnson/Johnson). MLK Committee parent representatives Thatiana Gibson P'21 and Robin Tweedy P'21 offered closing remarks.
A special thanks to the MLK Event Leadership and Committee:
PND Liaisons to the PA: Candace Cheatham P'21 and Eman Ansari P'24, 20
MLK Committee: Jolean Ashman '20, Bridget Conroy P'22, 17, Thatiana Gibson P'21, Nagamani Peri P'20, Robin Tweedy P'21, and Dehlia Umunna P'20.
Director of Parent Relations: Lynn McFarlan-Randall P'09
Constituent Relations Coordinator: Lily Cole-Chu