By Darryl Gangloff
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” These powerful words by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. kicked off a full day of workshops, conversations, performances, and community service on Jan. 16 to honor King's legacy and reflect on how the Hotchkiss community can continue to learn from his messages.
Kinyette Henderson, co-director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, Walter Crain Fellow, and instructor in English, told students in Walker Auditorium that King’s assassination occurred 55 years ago, which is “not as long ago as you think.” She said that this is the only federal holiday designated as a national day of service to encourage all Americans to volunteer and improve their communities. “We are going to take the time today to really think about our community at Hotchkiss. There is still work to be done.”
Students participated in more than a dozen workshops, where they discussed topics such as LGBTQ+ activism; how African American cuisine transformed America; the history of salsa music; racialized religion; empathy; food deserts; King’s speeches; and how to communicate in a community full of difference. View the Martin Luther King Jr. Day photo album.
Bearcats also took part in community service activities. Children from neighboring towns visited Hotchkiss to play basketball and hockey with athletes in the Forrest E. Mars Jr. Athletic Center and create King-inspired pieces of art in the EFX Lab. Some Hotchkiss students volunteered off-campus with Noble Horizons and the Humane Society.
Chapel events featured a poetry reading by Richardine Mamam Nbiba ’23 and a history lesson from Head of School Craig Bradley. “Martin Luther King Jr. Day is an important day for many reasons,” Bradley said. “It is a day during which we study the past, contemplate the present, and prepare to change the future for the better. It is a day for learning, it is a day for looking inward, and it is also a day for celebration.” He said the fight for justice must continue because racism, inequality, and injustice persist. “I encourage you to use this day and the days ahead to reflect on Dr. King’s words, teachings, and his spirit. I encourage you to learn and understand our collective history. And I encourage you to learn how to use it.”
The Hotchkiss community gathered for an in-depth panel discussion with Kimberly Jones, an author and filmmaker known for the bestselling young adult novel, I’m Not Dying with You Tonight; Sam White, who collaborates with civil rights organizations and nonprofits on social impact projects and talks with young people about advocacy and civic engagement; and DeRay McKesson, a civil rights activist focused primarily on issues of innovation, equity, and justice. Dean of Admission and Financial Aid Erby Mitchell Jr. and Director of Multi-Cultural Outreach and Recruitment Imani Majied ’15 moderated the talk.
“We are an intentionally diverse community. We seek to identify the most talented young people from around the world no matter their background,” Mitchell said, acknowledging that comes with some tension. “What advice would you give to these young people?”
Jones said Hotchkiss students are in a good position due to the cultural diversity on campus. “Growth comes from discomfort. You can’t always shy away from that, but you are also more than your worst day,” she said. McKesson agreed, adding that “talking through our feelings is really important.”
“Where does courage come from?” Mitchell asked. Jones suggested that “safe” spaces need to be replaced with “brave” spaces. “It’s important for you to expand your friendships so you have a diverse group of friends,” she said, noting young adults can have brave conversations with each other about implicit bias. “Kids are still at a point where they can do that, master it, and we can create a new generation of better adults.” She also emphasized that “being kind is a show of strength.”
“Bravery is doing what you think has a reasonable chance of success even if it’s uncomfortable,” White said. “You are some of the most elite students in the country. You have access to so much more than so many other people. Part of that requires the responsibility to do something with it.”
McKesson spoke at length about protesting and advocacy. He asked the audience for examples of items that cost $200. Students shouted their answers: AirPods, shoes, a dress, hockey gloves, jewelry, and a textbook. “In New Jersey today, if you steal over $200, you can get 18 months in prison,” he said. “We believe in accountability without cages. There should be a consequence, but prison feels like a wild consequence. There are a million of those types of issues that you can advocate for and understand.”
Jones said that “activism is exceptionally local” and told the crowd to learn about their local lawmakers to make changes in their own communities. In the age of viral social media posts, White said the “value of something is not determined by its scale.” If “only” 10 people came to a meeting, what did you do with those 10 people? How did you take advantage of that time? “It’s great to do things for a lot of people. It’s also great to do things for people, period,” he said. “It’s OK if you don’t change the world tomorrow. You still matter. You’re still valuable.”
‘How You Want to Be Remembered’
Students learned from King’s 1968 drum major sermon that he did not want to be remembered for his accolades. “If you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice. Say that I was a drum major for peace. I was a drum major for righteousness. And all of the other shallow things will not matter,” he said.
Following a dorm activity, students ended the day by sharing how they want to be remembered. Many want to be remembered as a good friend, as a leader, and as being kind. Standing on Elfers stage, one Bearcat said, “If I leave Hotchkiss having helped at least one person and made an impact in their life in some way, then I’ll be happy.”
Students respond: I want to be remembered…
As someone who brought a smile to their best friends’ faces.
As someone who is optimistic.
As someone my friends can always come to for advice.
As a good person who brings joy to other people without needing to be rewarded for it.
As someone who loves genuinely, always tries to bring a smile to people’s faces, and is learning to love sacrificially, a love that surpasses the superficial.
As someone who is always happy and smiling, as well as someone who works hard and is kind.
As someone who is sincere.
As a friend who helps the people around him.
As someone who is a leader.
As someone who is a good friend.
As someone who is easy to talk to.
As someone who is kind, relentlessly promotes positivity and change, perpetually nourishes those he cares for, a thinker, a ponderer, and a proponent for social and scientific progress.
For my wild imagination and the daydreams that I come up with.
For not always knowing what to say but always being there to say something.
As the girl that always laughed in an attempt to make people’s days just a little bit better.
As someone who learned from my mistakes and became a better person because of them.
For leading with empathy and passion, guided by what I believe in. I want to be remembered for being kind and inclusive to everyone I’ve met here.
As myself—the good and the bad, the successes and failures.
For leading by example, showing up for others, and following my passions.
For making people laugh, being curious, and loving deeply and genuinely.
For putting family and friends over anything else, and for always embracing and speaking about my culture and being proud to say that I’m Latino.
For my creativity, my courage, and my kindness—even if my kindness comes in small ways.
As someone who is great at showing love—a smile in the hallway and a quick convo—and that I made people feel heard.
As an inclusive community member who gives back to others.
For being kind and always advocating for myself and others.
As a great role model and a gentleman.
As empathetic, kind, understanding, and caring.
For being there all the time, not just during the really good or really bad, but for the entirety of it.
As a kind person who made an impact on the people around me.
As someone who made an impact on people’s lives and a lasting effect on the community around me.
As someone you can always count on.
For the little things.
As someone who doesn’t judge people by the words of others, but rather the words of that very person, and someone who betters himself through time and effort.
As somebody who makes others feel comfortable and who always listens.
As someone who shines a bright light in other people’s lives.
For always being me, always being true to myself, and always helping the people around me.
For my art and my music; how I make others feel; my smile; my kindness; my good advice; my character; and my voice, whether it be through my values or my music.
As someone who is someone to everyone and who makes people happy.
For being a good friend and for my kindness toward everyone in this wonderful community.
As a leader who inspired others to lead.
As someone who is authentic, reliable, and gives everything my all.
As someone who always has a smile on his face, even on days where it seems I have every reason not to.
For making a change—a small change—in the realm of diplomacy. I want to curtail the woes of nationalism and create principal diplomacy in our world. Growing up I have had a very unique background. I have been a third-culture child and an expat, and through this I have seen friendships that transcend nationality. I have seen people form beautiful bonds. This experience has been purely transformational for me. I hope to make a change in the world where countries can collaborate, and people can live more peaceful lives in a more globalized world.
If I may have a word on what I leave behind, may it be a memory—one for my family, one for my friends, one for other loved ones to remember for good. If I may have a word on what I have and will continue to teach, will others learn—one lesson, one idea, one topic for them to soak in. When I’m gone, I will be remembered for my actions and achievements, but if I may request one act—if I may be a memory, let me be a feeling or a memory of feelings with a joyful impact.
If I leave Hotchkiss having helped at least one person and made an impact in their life in some way, then I’ll be happy.