MLK Observance at Emma

Sandra Santana
Every year on the third Monday in January, the world comes together to pay homage to Civil Rights Leader and youngest Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (MLK) Originally signed into effect in November 1983, the first federal Dr. King holiday was celebrated in 1986, commemorating the legacy of Dr. King. Today, MLK Day focuses on the issue of civil rights, highlights the use of nonviolence to promote change, and inspires individuals into a life of public service. 


Emma Willard School engaged in a week-long celebration honoring the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr., saving the finale, fittingly, for the MLK holiday. To parallel the observance alongside our work to become a more equitable institution, morning learning blocks were transformed into miniature civil rights era history lessons on Dr. King's Radical Approach, his Letter from Birmingham Jail, and an Examination of Nonviolence. The cornerstone of afternoon programming centered on student and faculty-led presentations and the reveal of our community art project. (See photo)
Seven students and five faculty members thoughtfully and carefully constructed eight presentations for the school community:
  • Misrepresentation of Black Women in Media
    Annabelle M. ‘21, Nicole B. ‘22, and Oluchi A. ‘21 explored historical colorism in print and film, modern day hyper sexualization of Black and brown women and children, and shared a padlet for discussion around examples of misrepresentation we have noticed on our own.
  • Coded Bias: How Racism Shows up in Artificial Intelligence
    Mathematics and Computer Science instructor and Emma Codes advisor Chiara Shah explored bias in artificial intelligence facial recognition technology and how these unreliable features directly affect people of color.
  • Antisemitism in Modern Media and the United States
    Katie G. ‘23 presented various ways in which antisemitic stereotypes play out in examples of contemporary media, how to recognize those stereotypes, and offered examples of good Jewish representation in media. 
  • Raising Black Children as a White Parent/Guardian
    Director of Practicum Bridget McGivern spoke about personal experience opening her home to an exchange student, the specific differences of becoming a parental figure to someone with a different racial identity than her own, and dismissing thoughts of white saviorism.
  • The Black Lives Matter Movement: Misunderstood
    Gabby P. ‘23 reflected on the birth of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, the political misrepresentation and dismissal of BLM, and the ways her unique lived experiences as a Black woman in America have shaped her involvement in activism.
  • Environmental Racism & Environmental Justice
    History Department Chair Dr. Katharine Holt led viewers through an overview on how systemic racism pervades environmental practices. From the placement of landfills to lack of access to healthy food choices, Dr. Holt explored the many hidden inequities faced by lower income communities.
  • 50 Shades of Black: Colorism and the Construction of Race in the U.S.
    Theatre Director and Instructor Erica Tryon and her husband Christian Sundquist  discussed their personal experiences as children of biracial parents and the identity struggles they faced in their blended families growing up in the midwest.
  • Discrimination of Muslims and Middle Eastern People in the U.S.
    Nehir U. ‘22 shared how the effects of discrimination, assumptions, and generalizations about people of Middle Eastern descent have impacted Nehir directly and expressed the lack of education surrounding the contributions of Middle Easterners to technology, medicine, mathematics, and more continues to hold people from the 17 countries represented by the Middle East from being seen in the positive light they deserve.
We are grateful for the courageous sharing of our diverse school community and continue to value the unique and important differences within our students, faculty, and staff. Through our collective work, we will continue to shed light on the inequities faced in our world and come together as one to empower and amplify the voices of each individual at Emma Willard School.
We invite you to explore additional coverage of our MLK observance:
MLK Community Art Project

MLK Community Art Project