On Monday, the Ross School community gathered to commemorate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Each campus held an assembly where community members shared their experiences related to the lasting effect of Dr. King’s work to promote racial equality followed by thought-provoking classroom activities.
The Upper School assembly, which was led by Co-Director of Academics Carrie Clark and contextualized Dr. King’s work and the conditions under which the Civil Rights Movement began. Ross Learning System’s Christina Schlesinger, co-founder of the Social and Public Art Resource Center and a member of the Guerrilla Girls (a collection of protest artists), spoke to students about how Dr. King’s strategic approach to activism remains applicable to contemporary issues. She encouraged students to become involved in causes they find important.
Afterward, students engaged in classroom assignments designed to teach them more about Dr. King’s work and legacy. In Dean of Visual Arts Jennifer Cross’s Advanced Drawing and Studio Art classes, students drew portraits of Dr. King. The collection of their work is currently on display outside the Ross Café. Other activities included viewings of Selma (a 2014 film about the 1965 voting rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama) and 13th (a documentary about the race and incarceration), followed by guided discussions; rhetorical analyses of Dr. King’s speeches; taking Harvard University’s Implicit Bias Assessment; and viewing a performance of Seven Last Words of the Unarmed, a musical piece composed in response to the killings of unarmed black men by authority figures. The piece, performed by the University of Michigan Men’s Glee Club, is set to the structure of composer Joseph Haydn’s Seven Last Words of Christ and incorporates the melody of The Armed Man (L’homme Armé), a French song popularized during the Renaissance.
“After reviewing the piece, you see that it still reflects the message of the Renaissance song, said Dean of Performing Arts Adam Judd. “There are a lot of layers to discuss.”
At the Lower School, Early Childhood students and their sixth grade buddies began their King Day celebration with a touching rendition of “This Little Light of Mine,” a gospel song that served as a civil rights anthem. Next, the Genesis Gospel Choir gave a spirited performance of hymns, followed by an address by Deacon Ken Brown (father of Ross alumna Alaya Brown ’10),
Deacon Brown’s speech centered around Dr. King’s advice to combat divisiveness with love and compassion, especially for those less fortunate. In keeping with that message, the sixth grade has been leading a campuswide drive in support of the Empty Bowls Project, a community-driven, crafts-based fundraiser in which participants make and sell ceramic bowls to raise money for local hunger relief organizations. Beginning in December, students and faculty engaged in workshops where they made ceramic bowls. At the assembly, community members had the opportunity to buy the handcrafted bowls. The event raised nearly $1,000, which will be donated to Bridgehampton Community Food Pantry.
The students were inspired by the messages of service they heard at the assemblies. “Dr. King wanted to help people, and now it’s our turn to help,” said Maisie C. ’25.