On the morning of Monday, January 21, more than 250 students, parents, alumni and friends from the Manhattan Country School community gathered to begin the 2019 Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemorative March titled Changing the System: Marching Toward Justice. The annual event, now in its 31st year, is organized by the graduating eighth grade class and illustrates one of the many ways MCS celebrates the steadfast humanitarian work of the late civil rights leader, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Dr. King’s ideals served as the founding inspiration for Manhattan Country School. The origin of the March grew out of the desire to honor Dr. King with the wider New York City community outside of the annual family-only civil rights assemblies which have been an internal MCS tradition since 1966. Joyfully bringing speeches, chants and songs of peaceful protest to the streets of New York, the eighth grade tradition of planning the March began in 1998 – spearheaded by former English teacher Carol O’Donnell. This year’s Commemorative March has special significance for our community because it took place a week after what would have been Dr. King’s 90th birthday.
Changing the System: Marching Toward Justice touched on key civil rights issues including: anti-Semitism, Black women and police brutality, bullying, climate change, colorism, gentrification, gun control, immigration, poverty, prison reform, and reproductive rights. The Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemorative March illustrates how the school’s progressive curriculum and commitment to social justice helps an individual student’s voice develop into an articulate, compassionate activist.
Under the guidance of English Teacher Tom Grattan, the eighth graders spend several weeks planning the March including selecting the theme, route, conducting research and writing their own speeches. Through this process, students develop a host of skills, such as brainstorming, collaborating, negotiating, conducting research and writing persuasively, all woven within a full school day schedule and farm trips.
Each year the Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemorative March exemplifies the capacity of youth leadership to organize, advocate and affect change. Thank you for marching with us!