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Installation Tells Stories of Social Justice Activists

Step into the hallway of the dining hall and get lost in an exhibit that lines the walls of the corridor. The people in these photos have lived lives of caring — and daring. They have done so at a cost. 

The MLK Dining Hall Installation recognizes several activists and will remain up through the month of January as Loomis Chaffee celebrates the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the American Baptist pastor and activist who lived a life of social justice for all. The civil rights leader, in a non-violent way, dared to confront the establishment and eventually paid with his life. He was assassinated in 1968.  

The daring and caring ways of the activists pictured serve as a tribute to King as they further his vision of peaceful and collective action. 

“The stories are all powerful … give you confidence that you can inspire others,” junior Kaden Collins said. “What resonated with me the most is MLK. As it is coming up on MLK Day, his message of equality for everyone has been powerful in how we see the world today.” 

Malala Yousafzai’s story is on that wall. She is a Pakastani human rights and education activist who fights for every child, especially girls, to have the right to receive an education. At age 11, she wrote a blog that detailed her life during the Taliban occupation of her homeland in the Swat District. At 15, she was shot in the head by a Taliban gunman while riding the bus home from school. She survived the attack, graduated from Oxford in 2020, and is now 25 years old. A reminder of what the Taliban government is capable of: shortly before Christmas it suspended university education for all female students in Afghanistan as it continues to clamp down on women's freedom. 

Colin Kaepernick’s story is on that wall. The former San Francisco 49ers quarterback protested the National Anthem before football games in 2016, at first sitting and then kneeling, to raise awareness around social injustices, specifically police violence toward Black people. Mr. Kaepernick never played a game in the NFL after that season. No NFL team ever signed the free agent. He is 35 years old now. 

Autumn Peltier’s story is on that wall. She is an 18-year-old water-rights activist and has been the chief water commissioner for the Anishinabek Nation since 2019, after the death of her great-aunt who had served in the role. When she was 8 years old, she came to realize neighboring indigenous people were unable to drink their tap water because of pollution. In 2018, at age 13, she stood before the United Nations to talk about water protection. 

And there are many more on that wall for assorted reasons. Some of the featured activists are more well-known than others. But there is that one common thread: caring more for others than simply themselves. 

In the words of Loomis Chaffee’s Center for Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI): “As you engage with the installation, we encourage you to consider your connection to the work of social justice and how you can partner and collaborate with others — on and off campus — to do your part in creating a more equitable and just world.” 

While there, also check out the creative writing panel where some Loomis students share their feelings. 

In the spirit of MLK, who led a collective effort, this exhibit is the work of many: the Pearse Hub for Innovation (PHI), the Writing Studio, the Visual Arts Department, PRISM, and DEI interns.  


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