Day of Conversation Honors Legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.

During the afternoon of Monday, January 21, students and faculty took a break from the regular class schedule to participate in a variety of workshops, exploring diversity, equity, inclusion, and social justice in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
“We are taking time to honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and to do the hard work that King began,” says Chris Howes, dean of student life.

The afternoon started with the entire student body assembled in the Simon Theatre of the Burgin Center for the Arts to lay the groundwork for the conversations to come. Then students broke into smaller groups to participate in workshops led by students, faculty, and alumni.

A total of 28 workshops (led by students, faculty, and alumni) were offered. Alumni who facilitated workshops included Nancy Franke ’02, Maggie Goff ’10, and Tonya Rutherford ’90. Franke works in the field of criminal justice and discussed inequalities in mass incarceration; Goff is an economic and social policy research analyst and addressed the core principles of King’s legacy of radical love; and Rutherford is an attorney and spoke about the power of storytelling.

Students rotated through three workshops in total—two of their choice and one facilitated by Mercersburg’s Black Student Union (BSU). The BSU workshop asked students to explore privilege through an activity called the Privilege Bead Concept, utilizing a bowl of actual beads to represent how much privilege an individual unknowingly experiences.

“BSU leaders read a series of statements like, ‘If you are going to the airport, do you worry about being stopped?’” says Patrice McGloin ’19, a BSU member and one of the key student organizers for the day. “If your answer is no, you would take a bead. At the end of the activity, you are evaluating not only your racial privilege, but your socioeconomic privilege, your religious privilege, your ability privilege, gender privilege—all of those things, and I think a lot of times those types of privileges aren’t expressed or evaluated.”

McGloin underscores that the day of workshops was an attempt to “figure out ways to foster a sense of being okay with being vulnerable, being okay with being uncomfortable. It is really difficult for some individuals to talk about these things because they are not clean cut, but they have to be talked about.”

After three rotations of workshops, students filed into to the Burgin Center for the Arts’ Simon Theatre, where BSU members concluded the day with a focus on the civil-rights movement.

This year’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day programming builds on the foundation laid during the 2017-2018 academic year. In the fall of 2017, students paused from their regular schedule to participate in a day of Courageous Conversations. Then for Martin Luther King Jr. Day 2018, the Mercersburg community again took time to reflect in small groups about issues of social justice, social equity, and identity.

“I think one of the things that has been great this year is that we have been opening up with larger themes that can be difficult to talk about, and the one thing that we want to make sure doesn’t happen is that this is just a one day thing,” says McGloin. “I’m interested to see if it changes anything, and I’m not saying there has to be any kind of drastic change. I just wonder if maybe one day I’ll come down to the student center and find someone talking about racial justice who I never would have expected to talk about it before. That would be really cool because it means people are thinking about it.”

Founded in 1893 in the heart of Pennsylvania and the Mid-Atlantic, Mercersburg is a private, coed, college preparatory boarding school with approximately 435 students (15 percent are day), grades 9-12 and postgraduate.
We offer 170 courses, including AP and Honors, more than $7 million in financial aid, 26 varsity sports, and a state-of-the-art performing and visual arts center.
Located 90 minutes from Washington, D.C., and Baltimore, and within easy driving distance of New York City, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh.
300 East Seminary Street, Mercersburg, PA 17236
GPS Address: 10951 Buchanan Trail West, Mercersburg, PA 17236