Conversations and Tributes Mark MLK Week 2021

Loomis Chaffee students and faculty gathered virtually for a series of activities this week honoring the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr., using the occasion to seek a deeper understanding of Dr. King’s messages and heed his call for action both on campus and in the greater community. 

In her introductory remarks on Monday, January 18, Head of School Sheila Culbert said it was disheartening to consider that in the many years since Dr. King shared his vision for a multiracial democracy, the country continues to grapple with issues of systemic racism and social injustice. The school’s annual MLK Week programming aims to remind the community that in addition to Dr. King’s vision of racial harmony, he also urged determination to address poverty, hopelessness, and lack of opportunity in the fight against racism.

“It takes courage,” Sheila said, to be introspective, to commit to being anti-racist, and to take action.  

The week’s events included an all-school address on Monday by author and journalist Jeff Johnson. In the webinar convocation, Mr. Johnson focused on Dr. King’s speaking and writing beyond his iconic “I Have A Dream” speech. Mr. Johnson also answered questions from several students in a session that was recorded and shared with the community later in the week.

After the convocation, students and their faculty advisors attended breakout sessions that looked at racism as it pertains to sports, gender, economics, and education as well as other social, economic, and policy injustices and possible community responses to them. Faculty members led many of the discussions, and Ariel Williams ’06, a vice president at Goldman Sachs financial services company in New York, led a session on financial racism with economics teacher Mat DeNunzio.

Dialogues sparked by Monday’s convocation and breakout sessions continued on Tuesday during advisory group de-briefings and a well-attended open meeting hosted via video conference by the student organization P.R.I.S.M. (People Rising in Support of Multiculturalism).

Students and other community members paid tribute to Dr. King through music, dance, and spoken word, and their video performances were shared across school media during the week.

The Loomis Office of Diversity Equity & Inclusion (D.E.I.), including associate deans of D.E.I. Ahmad Cantrell ’07 and Elliott Dial, coordinated this year’s MLK Week programming.

“These conversations need to be incorporated into our everyday life at Loomis,” Elliott said, adding that he thinks this year’s events were a good first step toward meeting the D.E.I. goals to which the school committed last spring.

Senior Azaan Malik, a student leader of P.R.I.S.M., described the week’s events as “wonderful.” In particular, he said, a discussion about ways that companies and organizations are beginning to address diversity and inclusion left him feeling hopeful for the future.

“I hope that I can help bring more continued conversation and change in the time I have left in Loomis and P.R.I.S.M.,” he said.

Connect to the website news story about Jeff Johnson’s convocation on January 18.

Connect to the website page for more about Diversity, Equity & Inclusion at Loomis Chaffee.