An MLK Day Reflection

by Edward Jordan | Director of Diversity, Unity & Belonging

Jordan in our MLK Day Chapel

Within our cultural calendar, January 16, Martin Luther King Day, marks the inauguration of the celebratory season for African Americans in the United States. Considering that Dr. King was a pioneer for civil rights advocacy within the black community, it seems appropriate to kick off the season with a time of reflection on his life and work. For the Stony Brook School, it’s nothing less, and perhaps even more.

To highlight Dr. King is to highlight the pursuit of justice and the preservation of peace through mercy, which was the cornerstone of his mission, the message of the Gospel, and the cornerstone of our mission. So, in essence, MLK day gives us the opportunity to exercise what we exist to do. It’s an opportunity to practice empathy for others that don’t look like us; to challenge our students to own the nuances of our diverse community in a way that builds exceptional character. Of course, most students would love to have another day off, but this is what sets SBS apart from its contemporaries. Throughout the day, our students participated in a number of activities that invited them to embrace this mission.

The goal of the day was for it to be educational, reflective, and invitational for every student, regardless of race and ethnicity. Probably one of the most impactful parts of the day was the opportunity students had to screen the film Selma, released in 2014, which chronicled Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s campaign to secure equal voting rights via an epic march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, in 1965. Amongst students’ reactions to the film were words like “convicted,” “empowered,” and “enlightened.” One student even noted that if they could ask Dr. King a question today, it would be, “Are you proud of the world we are currently living in?”

In addition to the film, some students participated in an art project where they used Suminagashi, the ancient art of Japanese marbling, to decorate origami paper they later folded into paper cranes, a Japanese symbol of hope and peace. Here they had the opportunity to see how we are united globally in this mission and that the hopeful pursuit of peace crosses color and domestic borders. 

In the end, this day pushed our students. For some, it was out of their bed on a holiday, but for most, it was towards a deeper sense of empathy, awareness, and a call to action. It sparked excitement and created momentum for the newly reformed Diversity Unity and Belonging initiative at SBS. I look forward to ripples yet to be felt in our community as we strive to be an example of what it means to seek justice, love mercy, and live out the Gospel that our world so desperately needs.

One comment

  1. As I reflect on MLK Monday, I was focused on his cry for equality and unity and how the Church stood by and watched. Not a great time in our church history; the Church still hasn’t shown much Character here. And it suddenly dawned on me that you can’t have unity without equality. Is that why we still have Christian watchers? That was Dr. King’s challenge to us all, black, white, brown, yellow, red, and green. Those holding power have to start sharing that orb and scepter. Those at the table have to start adding more chairs so others can have a voice too. In 1965, Dr. King spoke at Hofstra University graduation and shared that “mankind’s survival is dependent on man’s ability to solve the problems of racial injustice, poverty and war” and that the “solution of these problems is . . . dependent upon man squaring his moral progress with his scientific progress, and learning the practical art of living in harmony . . . The richer we have become materially, the poorer we have become morally and spiritually. We have learned to fly the air like birds and swim the sea like fish. But we have not learned the simple art of living together as brothers.” “The simple art of living together as brothers” why is it so difficult? Dr. King was assassinated in April 1968 and mankind’s survival is still dependent on our ability to grant equality and unite. Today that challenge includes the whole world and “the problems of racial injustice, poverty and war” continue to dehumanize us all. Without equality there is no possibility of unity and we will continue to fight our problems versus solve them. For 2023, as fellow Christians, let’s just pledge to take a step forward and acknowledge our role and obligation to grant equality. My gut feeling is that church unity will follow. Start by pulling up a new chair and inviting the marginalized to your table. Was that not the message that we learned in Chapel? We have been given the greatest power to demonstrate Jesus Christ’s love for this lost and confused world. Let’s not miss another opportunity. Thanks for your encouragement.


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