Assembly Aims to Contextualize Martin Luther King Jr.


Jordan Millar, Managing Editor

Poly held its annual Upper School Martin Luther King Jr. Assembly on Wednesday, January 11. The theme for this year’s assembly, according to Director of Student Life Jared Winston, was entitled “Contextualizing King.”

 Throughout the United States, Martin Luther King Jr. Day is observed every year on the third Monday in January. The day serves to honor and commemorate the life, work, and legacy of Dr. King himself, a prominent and influential leader in the Civil Rights Movement known for  fighting for racial justice and equality through peaceful protest. For Poly’s assembly, Winston noted that it would not only focus on the importance of Dr. King, but also various other figures that sought to bring about change during the Civil Rights Movement. “This year, [the goal of] ‘Contextualizing King’ is to look at that one individual as part of a larger cultural movement happening not only here in this country but around the world,” Winston said. 

Math Specialist Jeremi Lewis and History Teacher Camryn Clarke, who according to Winston spearheaded the planning of the assembly, worked with students to develop the program through a series of meetings over the past few months. Winston notes that he was “impressed by how eager and willing they’ve been to engage student leaders in executing the vision.” A total of six important black figures aside from Dr. King, and their contributions to the Civil Rights Movement, were spotlighted during the assembly. Lewis and Clarke, along with assistance from Language Teacher Dr. Angela Gittens, selected six black students to present on each of these figures. 

Jordan James, a 10th grade student, gave a short speech about Claudette Covin, a black female Civil Rights activist, who at the age of 15, was removed from a bus after refusing to give up her seat to a white passenger. “She said that she paid her fare and her constitutional right to sit there weighed just as much as the white passenger,” James said during his presentation at the assembly. “Colvin recalls feeling as if she was being pushed into her seat by Sojourner Truth and Harriet Tubman…” he added. 

The story and legacy of Ruby Bridges, was presented by Kaya Freeman, a 9th grade student. Freeman explained “Bridges was the first black child and black girl to desegregate William Frantz Elementary School in New Orleans,” and that her “bravery, perseverance, and determination helped pave the way for the Civil Rights movement and desegregation in the South.” 

Other figures presented on included Nina Simone, a singer, songwriter, pianist, and activist (presented by Jordan Millar ’24, who is also the author of this piece), Patrice Lumumba, a Congolese politician and the first prime Minister of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (presented by Josiah Bartholomew ‘23), Fela Kuti, a Nigerian musician and political activist (presented by Bryce Trent ’24), and Freeman Hrabowski, an American educator and advocate (presented by Jordan Campbell ‘23). Danielle Jason, an 11th grade student, presented her research for a public history project on Casper Sylvester Jones, who is likely the first black student to attend Poly. 

“It’s important for kids to learn about their country,” Winston said. “It [the assembly] is a look at the relationship that the United States as an institution, had with revolutionary ideas not only at home but also abroad,” he added.