Deerfield Academy’s celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day on January 20 will feature a full day of activities related to the theme “Opening Our Eyes to Social Injustice: Opportunities and Challenges Near and Far.” Dr. King was the chief spokesman for nonviolent activism in the civil rights movement, which successfully protested racial discrimination in federal and state law. The campaign for a federal holiday in Martin Luther King’s honor began soon after his assassination in 1968. It was officially observed in all 50 states for the first time in 2000.
Victor Wright, Deerfield alumnus and Trustee of Deerfield Academy, will be our opening speaker. He will share his personal story and address the importance of diversity and inclusion for the health of our society.
Mr. Wright, a judge for the superior court in Los Angeles, California, was appointed in 2006 by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. He is assigned to a felony early disposition settlement court, with occasional responsibilities over civil matters. Prior to this assignment, he presided over the Inglewood Drug Court Program and currently serves on the Superior Court’s Court Services and Court Security Committees. Head of School Margarita Curtis says, “Victor Wright is a prime example of someone who has thoughtfully combined the ability to do well with the eagerness to do good. As a judge in the Los Angeles Superior Court system, he takes the issue of social justice seriously, and lives daily by our school motto: ‘Be worthy of your heritage.’ Mr. Wright will be a compelling keynote speaker for our Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration because he leads by example and is fully committed to making a difference in his local community and beyond.”
Deerfield’s Community Service Board is responding to Dr. King’s call to action to address social injustice by partnering with Kids Against Hunger, a humanitarian food aid organization working to significantly reduce the number of starving children around the world. “This will be the most ambitious service project in Deerfield’s history,” says Bernie Baker, Director of Community Service. The ultimate goal is to raise $50,000, which will be used to purchase food, package materials, and cover the shipping costs of providing 200,000 meals to desperately hungry people in Haiti and the Philippines, two countries ravaged by natural disasters.
In the afternoon, members of the community will have the opportunity to choose and participate in one of 25 workshops covering a number of topics related to civil rights and social justice. The sessions, which will be facilitated by faculty, staff, students, alumni and off-campus visitors, will provide opportunities for participants to be actively engaged in dialogue about issues like mass incarceration, education access, Latino culture, development and finance, immigration, adoption, and music.
In addition to this, Professor Robert Romer of Amherst College (author of the first history of slavery in western Massachusetts) will lead a walking tour about the history of slavery in Historic Deerfield. Steve Strimer, who works with The David Ruggles Center Walking Tour, will take participants to the nearby town of Florence which, from 1842 through the Civil War, was a leading center of anti-slavery agitation.
The entire day will be filled with activities designed to help all members of Deerfield’s community to not only pause and reflect on Dr. King’s legacy, but to also contributing to the ongoing movement for civil rights, human rights, and economic opportunity and equality.
Students, faculty, and staff, please consult the list of breakout sessions and register for the session that you would like to attend. The registration deadline is Wednesday, January 15. Students who do not register by this deadline will be assigned to a workshop.
The Schedule for the day is as follows:
|8:30 am||Keynote Speech by Trustee Victor Wright|
Group 1: Community Service Project Packaging 200,000 Meals with Kids Against Hunger (West Gym)
|10:45-12:15 pm||Group 2: Community Service Project Packaging 200,000 Meals with Kids Against Hunger (West Gym)
Group 1: Social Justice and Hunger Workshop (East Gym)
|1:45-3:00pm||Break Out Sessions facilitated by Faculty, Staff Students, Alumni and Outside Visitors|
The dress code for the day is neat casual attire (No yoga pants or sweats).