Do Friends Students Properly Honor Dr.Martin Luther King Jr.?

Brooke Harrison

On Monday, January 20th, the students of Wilmington Friends School spent their afternoon honoring the life and accomplishments of Martin Luther King Jr., who was an integral leader in the civil rights movement during the late 1940s- 1960s. The United States made MLK day a federal holiday in 1983, but not all 50 states observed it until the year 2000. Schools and companies commonly off for the day, but other people honor MLK by engaging in a variety of activities. Here at friends, we honor him as a community by doing different workshops in the afternoon. 

On MLK day, friends students had their schedule condensed in order to have all of their classes in the morning. Then, at noon, everyone went to the theater to hear a speaker. At 12:45 we ate lunch, and then starting at 1:25, students engaged in either two thirty-minute workshops or an hour-long workshop until 2:30. After these workshops, students had a meeting for worship in the meeting room, with the chamber singers singing two of their songs. 

Some of the workshop options available were different Friday For Future options, making Valentine’s Day cards for children at A.I. Dupont children’s hospital, and a plethora of others depending on which clubs decided to host them. While many students enjoyed the workshops, there were also comments on ways they could be improved. In a conversation about the workshops, Greer Marvel ‘23 commented that “The only thing I would change is the fact that we can only do two workshops because there were a few that I wanted to participate in.” Therefore, it is clear that students feel that more time for workshops would similarly offer more opportunities to learn. 

We should have to talk about issues that MLK talked about no matter how uncomfortable it might make people feel.”

— Ajala Elmore

The people who ran workshops put a lot of time and effort into making them happen. They had to figure out what to do, gather materials that were needed, and organize how many people would show up to them. Gianna Martinelli ‘22 helped run a Fridays for Future workshop, and put in a lot of work to make it happen. “We actually had a fair amount to do. The original script of our workshop was over 200 pages, so we had to edit that with the help of Mr. Ergueta’s daughter. We also had to find people to commit to our dramatic reading roles, and assign every passage to a person. We had some lunch meetings as well. But overall, I would consider the work to be worth it.” Martinelli makes it clear that students put considerable effort into their Martin Luther King Jr. Day workshops. 

There were also learning opportunities in the workshops. You could have learned about the climate crisis and its relationship to MLK day, information from the Black Student Union, and much more. The goal was to learn new things and it seems that the goal was met. Greer Marvel ‘23 commented, “I learned a lot about climate change and other related climate emergencies from Friday’s for Future workshop.” It seems like most people learned information through Friday’s for Future workshops. 

Another important thing from the workshops was that it actually helped people learn more about the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. MLK was a man who did a lot of services and tried to help people by giving back to communities. Some students around the Upper School thought one part of the afternoon wasn’t enough to learn more about him. Other students disagreed and said it’s about giving back and doing service, which is what MLK did. Ajala Elmore ‘20 said that we should spend more time talking about MLK: “I would like to make the workshops all have a connection to MLK and not just service. Each workshop should talk about its connection to MLK. Also, we should have to talk about issues(equality, poverty, racism, etc) that MLK talked about no matter how uncomfortable it might make people.” 

Overall, people learned different things from the workshops. In the future, maybe some of the things will change, such as integrating more direct lessons about MLK or extending the breadth of our service.