On Friday, January 12, the entire DCD community—parents, teachers, and students—lifted their voices in song and their hands in service to honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. This Martin Luther King Jr. Day is a somber reminder that this year marks the 50th anniversary of the civil rights leader’s assassination at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee, on April 4, 1968.
To commemorate Dr. King’s legacy, DCD parent David Coleman, a musician and teacher at Dana Hall School who leads a gospel choir, led the packed morning assembly in a moving array of music and song from the civil-rights era to begin a day of service activities in honor of the slain leader.
David, who hails from Memphis where King was assassinated, talked to the audience about growing up in a segregated school where he was taught black history in every class, including math and science, and where he learned the lyrics to “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” a song that was written on the occasion of Lincoln’s birthday and eventually became known as the Negro National Anthem.
Speaking about the role of music in the civil-rights era, he said music is for celebration, calming us, inspiring us, making us feel we are not alone, and calling us to bring about change in our lives and in the lives of others. Songs like “Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around” and “Lift Every Voice and Sing” were needed during the civil-rights movement, he said, to unify and make people feel less alone.
“When you look at a rainbow, how many colors are in there,” he asked. “A rainbow shows how all colors can become one. We are one race, one rainbow; from diversity, comes unity. To achieve unity, we have to celebrate diversity.”
As part of the opening program, selected sixth graders made a presentation that included famous quotes by Dr. King and featured a person they admired who had overcome discrimination and gone on to success. The presenters joined the chorus in singing “We Shall Overcome.”
Dr. King once said, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’”, a comment that has formed the basis of DCD’s Day of Service in his honor, which takes place annually the Friday before the holiday and engages children in every grade from pre-k through grade 8 in age-appropriate community service activities.
Projects undertaken by younger students included cat and dog treats for the Animal Rescue League in Dedham made by pre-k, birthday gift bags for children at the Walker School, a residential program for children at risk, made by kindergarten, coloring books for the MGH Pediatric Cancer Center, made by first graders, a walkathon by second graders that has raised $1,440 so far for GSD (glycogen storage disease), gift bags for the Italian Home for Children, including bookmarks, made by third graders, a blanket drive by fourth graders for the animals waiting to be adopted at the ARL in Dedham, and books recorded on CD by fifth graders for children at a local elementary school.
Middle school students organized a basketball and hockey shoot-a-thon to take place on February 9 to benefit Nothing but Nets, an organization that purchases mosquito nets to prevent malaria, a fast to be held at DCD on February 27 to benefit OXFAM and raise awareness of world hunger, and a clothing drive for Cradles to Crayons, to provide essentials to low-income and homeless children. Some students wrote letters to veterans and active service members through the Wounded Warrior Project’s Operation Gratitude. Others made nameplates for residents of the Charles River Center and Valentines to share with seniors at the Brookdale assisted living center.
Community Outreach Faculty co-chair Jim Pinola commented on how the projects reached out in a lot of different ways—to adults, kids, and even animals, both locally and in other countries—commending the students on their activities to make the world a better place. He told them to “Take the community service spirit from today and carry it forward so it’s not just one day but something that happens throughout the year.”
Click here to view a slideshow from the day. To see the full photo album in Vidigami, click here.