By Harrison Sutton
On April 4, 1968, Civil Rights leader and one of America’s most prominent historical figures, Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. With all of the social progress that was inspired by MLK’s movement, the entire world has celebrated his legacy, and it became an official national holiday in 1983, during Ronald Reagan’s presidency. Each year, MLK Day is celebrated on the third Monday of January and The Gunnery always uses the occasion as a way to appreciate Luther King’s work and emphasize its relevance in modern society.
This year, The Gunnery focused attention on the power of MLK’s non-violent protest. During advisor lunches on the 14th and 17th of January, the school turned its eyes towards two other influential figures in history who are renowned for their non-violent philosophies.
On Tuesday, January 14, the school placed a page of information about Henry David Thoreau’s work on each advisor table. While Thoreau may not immediately come to mind when one thinks of people similar to MLK, his famous essay “Civil Disobedience” has a message which resonates in the outlook that MLK had in his activism. Thoreau encouraged each and every citizen to stand up for what they believe and not to fold to an unjust government.
Like MLK’s movement, Thoreau’s essay encouraged those who are victimized by wrongdoings to passively uprise and work towards peaceful change. Thoreau was a staunch abolitionist who inspired many people to work towards change and not acquiesce to harmful rulers.
At the subsequent advisor lunch, the school connected the work of Thoreau and King to Indian activist Mahatma Mohandas Gandhi. As one of the most influential and well-known activists in modern history, it is clear that MLK took a page out of Gandhi’s book as well. Gandhi famously led an Indian revolution that ended British rule of India.
From 1915 to 1947, Gandhi was a vocal member of the Indian community that aimed to end the abuse and mistreatment that the British rule had been inflicting on the nation. Similarly to MLK and Thoreau, he is renowned for his non-violent philosophy. Gandhi’s approach was titled ‘non-co-operation,’ and his goal was to refuse the unjust demands that the British colonists put upon Indian citizens.
Gandhi’s speaceful style of revolt was eventually successful, although Gandhi and many other activists suffered in the process. Events such as the Salt March saw the British rulers abuse and even murder many innocent peaceful revolutionaries, but India finally gained independence in 1947.
On Monday, January 20, The Gunnery took a break from classes for the day and honored MLK’s legacy with commemorative events to raise awareness and appreciation for the Civil Rights leader. The school gathered in the ACC at 8:30 AM and opened up the day with a team-building exercise in the building’s lobby. Students dispersed into groups of ten and with a combination of students who either wore blindfolds or earbuds, they tried to work together to order a stack of papers that each had one letter on them by alphabetical order. The activity was meant to emphasize the effect of interpreting experiences through different lenses; while some people could not hear and some people could not see, they used their differences to work towards achieving a goal.
When the students finished that activity, they moved to the ACC’s theatre where the found out that the scrambled letters that they ordered spelled this quotation from Frederick Gunn on Jan 19, 1846:
“See with every body’s eyes, use all the “glasses” we can lay hands upon, but at least believe the evidence of our own eyes, believe our own reason, trust our own conscience” `
After a brief introduction from Ms. Leclerc, the school watched the fictional movie Crash. This movie, starring Don Cheadle, Michael Pena, and Sandra Bullock spotlights the qualities and flaws of human nature. Characters of many different races and backgrounds each displayed their compassionate humanity while also at times demonstrating deep flaws. The movie intertwines numerous storylines, all taking place in Los Angeles over the course of 24 hours. Every character makes mistakes that hurt others, but they all show redeeming qualities with heartfelt actions.
After the movie, students met with their dorms to discuss its message and their reactions to it. With the day’s topic intending to value the idea of accepting diverse backgrounds, they later met with their advisory groups for an activity that is meant to enable each student to vocalize what makes their life unique. Every member of the community got a blank piece of paper and drew a depiction of their lives on it.
Ultimately, The Gunnery commemorated Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy by honoring the massive importance of peaceful resistance against unjust power and encouraging every member of the community to open their lenses to people of any and every background.