"Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us;
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun..."
-From Lift Every Voice and Sing, A Spiritual by James Weldon Johnson
The Taft School Gospel Choir opened the 2019 celebration of the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., with a traditional Spiritual, Lift Every Voice and Sing, and in doing so, invited every voice at the annual breakfast gathering to join as one in a chorus of reflection and hope.
Taft's annual Martin Luther King Day Breakfast brings together members of the Taft community with members of the community at large. Guests include dignitaries from the City of Waterbury, including Mayor Neil O'Leary and Waterbury public school officials, as well as representatives of the local police departments. This year's breakfast address was delivered by Darren Schwartz, Chief Academic Officer for the Waterbury Public Schools. Schwartz also introduced a surprise guest, Jahana Hayes, the 2016 National Teacher of the Year and United States Representative from Connecticut's 5thCongressional District, who congratulated the newest cohort of Global Leadership Institute Scholars, and encouraged all attendees to use their voices for something.
"Figure out what that something is," said Hayes, "no matter how big or how small, and use your voice to do what good people do."
Hayes made history in November when she became the first black woman from Connecticut to be elected to Congress.
Throughout the day, students and faculty continued exploring themes central to Dr. King's work through a series of case studies and small group sessions.
"We are asking you to engage with an open heart and an open mind all day and all year," Baba Frew, Director of Community Service and one of the celebration organizers, explained to the community at the start of the case study blocks.
Dr. Christopher Petrella, who teaches in American University's Critical Race, Gender, and Culture Studies Collaborative and serves as Director of Advocacy & Strategic Partnerships for the Antiracist Research and Policy Center at the University, introduced the case study themes and concepts during the Martin Luther King Day keynote address last week. His address, entitled, "Intersectionality and the Politics of Remembrance: All the Women are White, All the Men are Black, and Some of Us are Brave," helped students and faculty effectively define the term "intersectionality," while exploring how it works, why it matters, and how it shapes public memory and its politics. More than 40 faculty members volunteered to lead the case studies and group sessions, which included deep dives into details of Dr. Petrella's address, children's literature, contaminated water in Flint, MI, the debate over Confederate statues, and Harvard University and affirmative action.
The multi-day tribute to Dr. King included WorldFest on Saturday, a student-driven celebration of the cultures reflected in our community, and culminated with Monday afternoon's traditional Multicultural Arts Celebration.