School NewsJan 20, 2021

updated Jan 21, 2021

In pursuit of Dr. King’s beloved community

A day of action at MHS

(Photo by Unseen Histories on Unsplash)

The Miss Hall’s community commemorated Martin Luther King, Jr. on January 18 with a full day of programming — and action — inspired by the Civil Rights leader.

Diversity Coalition tri-heads, Kathleen Nguyen ’22 and Cailyn Tetteh ’22, assisted by tri-Head Shannon Foster ’21, kicked off the day with an introduction to Dr. King’s concept of “Beloved Community,” and its tenets of nonviolence and eliminating poverty, militarism, and racism.

The first all-school program was a keynote address by Brooke Bridges, Food Justice Coordinator at Soul Fire Farm. Located in Grafton New York, Soul Fire is an Afro-Indigenous-centered community farm committed to uprooting racism and seeding sovereignty in the food system. In the fall of 2018 and 2019, sophomores in the MHS Horizons program visited the farm as part of their sense-of-place curriculum.

In her remarks, Brooke shared Soul Fire Farm’s mission, detailed how racism is deeply embedded in the U.S. food system, and highlighted how the farm works to combat that racism through its programs. Soul Fire seeks to reignite the connection of Black and brown people to the land and food, building on the rich legacy of African and indigenous agricultural practices.

Brooke noted that a food system built on land taken from native peoples, worked by slave labor, and government-funded to the advantage of white farmers has disproportionately affected Black and brown people who have been impacted economically and by systemic food apartheid — food scarcity and diet-related illnesses. Industrial agriculture and a lack of connection to the land compound those injustices.

“There is always more work to be done. We can’t stop until we’ve completely eradicated all forms of violence and oppression, no matter how deep rooted they are.”
Cailyn Tetteh ’22
Diversity Coalition tri-Head

Soul Fire Farm’s mission begins with the concept of feeding people and the soil, through regenerative farming practices. It trains and equips farmer-activists to build cooperatives and share the wealth. It also seeks to build movements, through regional and national organizing and inspiring others to act. “Because we live here we have a duty to make a change and make things better,” Brooke said.

After a short break, teams of Horizons students gathered in three sub-groups focused on food justice policy and opportunities for micro-level actions:

  • Policy action: Students wrote to federal lawmakers in support of the Justice for Black Farmers Act, proposed legislation that Soul Fire Farm helped craft.
  • Food waste: Another group explored reclaiming food waste and examining how MHS might help communities that lack access to healthy foods.
  • Food access: A third group explored how to support food access for all in the Berkshires.

The mid-day break featured MHS Step Team co-Heads Alessandra Alicea ’21 and Keren Skeete ’21 sharing a video tutorial on stepping, a traditional African American form of percussive dance.

Our community reconvened in the evening for three workshops:

  • “Take Action: Part 2” built upon the morning’s action sessions led by the MHS Horizons team.
  • “In His Words: In Our Words” explored some of Dr. King’s inspiring messages and asked participants to share and reflect on their own messages to humanity.
  • “Beat making with MLK” featured Music Instructor Rob Sanzone leading a session on putting Dr. King’s words to music.

You don’t have to be Dr. King in order to have an impact. Your social justice journey is just that: your own. Whether organizing a peaceful protest, contacting lawmakers about discriminatory laws, or addressing issues within your own personal circles, it is impactful!

Diversity Coalition tri-Head

Martin Luther King Day at MHS concluded with an Essence meeting, led by co-Heads Ebony Marshall ’21 and Shirley Dong ’23, who centered the dialogue on the Black Lives Matter and Me Too movements.

The event’s student organizers were pleased with how the day unfolded.

“I hope that the MHS community can learn from and be inspired by the wisdom of Dr. King. I believe that the MHS community will also become a truly ‘Beloved Community,’ where we live together with peace, inclusion, and love.”
Shirley Dong ’23
Essence co-Head

Cailyn particularly enjoyed Brooke’s presentation from Soul Fire Farm. “I enjoy plants and gardening a lot, and I am passionate about equity and justice in resources,” said Cailyn, who learned from the day that there are always hidden depths to people. “I learned a lot of interesting things about Martin Luther King, Jr., whilst I was researching the Tenets of the Beloved Community for the DivCo presentation.”

“The biggest take-away for me was that I now have a deeper understanding about Dr. King’s ideas of the “Beloved Community” and  the “Three Evils,” Shirley said. “I also have a better understanding of the goals of many organizations and movements. And, I recognize that as an individual, there are many actual actions that I can take to help to realize the promising ideas of Dr. King.”

Shannon also enjoyed Brooke’s presentation. “It was really intriguing to hear about the intersectionality between uprooting racism and environmental justice,” said Shannon, who added that she hopes the community takes away from the day an understanding that social justice and activism are not linear. “There are so many ways to do this important work. With that being said do take the time to lean into your discomfort and have difficult but important dialogues.”

A full day for our beloved community!