30th Annual MLK Celebrations

“I dream a world where all / Will know sweet freedom's way, / Where greed no longer saps the soul / Nor avarice blights our day.” So reads an excerpt from Langston Hughes’s poem, “I Dream a World,” which fifth grader Grace M. chose to recite last Friday as part of a student-directed presentation of music, dance, and spoken word performances honoring Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and fellow social justice leaders.
An annual tradition for 30 years, this year’s MLK programming was inspired by the theme, “In service of….” Students spent the week participating in workshops (many of them student-led), activities, and service projects related to the topic. Students from both campuses began the week together, marching along Fourth Avenue and carrying signs they created inviting onlookers to ask themselves, as one message read, “What are you doing for others?” After the march, the GraceNotes joyfully performed “Lift Every Voice and Sing” during the annual Peace Chapel following a moving introduction from first grader Jordan W. (the introduction alone received a standing ovation!), who spoke of the song’s significance as a prayer for freedom for Black Americans. 
Middle and high school students then launched into their respective symposiums, which were designed to augment classroom learning and strengthen their sense of belonging within the school community. They led and attended interactive workshops exploring a wide range of topics, such as neurodiversity, activism in sports, allyship across identities, climate justice, the lived experiences of men of color, and what it means to belong at Grace. They volunteered their time to serve their community, participating in neighborhood cleanups; making Valentine’s Day cards and delivering meals to New York City’s senior population; and creating care packages for those experiencing housing insecurity. They celebrated how far we’ve come, as they danced, sang, played their instruments, and made art, paying tribute to artists like Faith Ringgold, Bill T. Jones, William Owens, and the many whose names may not be widely known but whose contributions endure.  
Director of Alumni Relations Renata Henry hosted an alumni panel with Grace graduates Tara E. '16, Lauren H. '19, Camryn D. '21, and Josh M. '22, who spoke about the impact Grace had on them and the work they continue to do to build community and advance social justice causes about which they are passionate. 

The week concluded with the symposiums’ keynote speakers. New York Times bestselling author of “The Sum of Us,” Heather McGee, visited high school students to speak about the zero-sum paradigm and the ways in which oppression of one harms us all. Carol Mallaird and Louise Robinson, two founding members of Sweet Honey in the Rock, presented an assembly to middle school students (who excitedly asked questions and even had a chance to harmonize with the duo!) and spoke of the influence of African American history and culture on their music.  
Click here to view a slideshow of photo highlights and here to view video highlights from the week.
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Grace Church School is a co-educational independent school in downtown Manhattan, New York City providing instruction for nearly 800 students in Junior Kindergarten through Grade 12.