Students “Keepin’ it Real” on MLK Day

Every January, the school comes together to celebrate the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. with speakers and workshops. Martin Luther King (MLK) Day is a time for community members to learn about history and celebrate their identities.
This year, MLK Day fell on Monday, January 20. Programming began the preceding Sunday night with a keynote address by Annika Lescott ’06 and musical performances by Kostia Howard ’20, Desmond Teague ’20, and James “Maestro J” Racine, orchestra director and director of equity and inclusion at Kentucky Country Day School.
The Black and Hispanic Students Association (BaHSA) worked with Dr. Rachel Myers, director of diversity and inclusion, and the Alumni Office to choose Lescott as this year’s speaker. Dr. Myers thought it was important to have a female speaker, as MLK Day speakers have often been male.
Ms. Lescott is currently a presidential management fellow in the Executive Office of the President of the United States and a senior advisor for the New York Public Housing Industry. Her work is especially important now, as the country faces a housing crisis. For example, as Statista reports, two-thirds of renters across the country are unable to afford a house.
On Monday morning, students attended a variety of workshops led by community members. The 20 different programs included a pub-style trivia challenge run by the Quizbowl team, an open fishbowl discussion about race and identity, film screenings, and writing workshops. Victoria Azzu ’20, who co-facilitated a “Dance Yoga ” workshop with Isaac Alicea ’20 and Dr. Anju Taneja, instructor in physics, said, “It was exciting to be able to combine Dr. Taneja’s passion for yoga, Isaac’s passion for music, and my love for dance to create a space where students could move and be present in a different way than they might be used to.”
The theme for this year’s programming – “Keepin’ it Real” – was a continuation of last year’s concept of “Unsung Heroes of the Civil Rights Movement.” BaHSA members hoped that students would connect last year’s conversations about historical figures with current issues. LaJayzia Wright ’20, co-head of BaHSA said, “[The theme] ‘Keepin’ it Real’ means to tell your story; tell your truth. Don’t hide behind a false facade of who you are and what you have gone through, because you are just as important as everyone else.”
Hotchkiss has celebrated MLK Day for over a decade with speakers and workshops. Last year, Dr. Myers wanted to expand MLK programming to a two-day event. This year, musical performances were added after the keynote speaker.
Dr. Myers hopes that the programming spoke to a wide range of students from different backgrounds. She said, “There are a lot of problems still…particularly, when I think about the issues we are dealing with in regards to gender and sexual orientation. I hope that people see that MLK day can be more [than] just grounded in the Civil Rights movement and that we can bridge the connection into today’s [issues].”