Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s “I Have a Dream” speech was delivered at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom 53 years ago, but with its plea for an end to police brutality and racial injustice in our nation, it could have been delivered today. This is why senior Sophie ReVeal suggested an outdoor screening of the original speech for the Wilson community to come, listen, and reflect. This dream became a reality on August 28, when about 80 students, parents, teachers, and community members sat at Fort Reno Park and watched the original delivery of Dr. King’s powerful speech.
The afternoon began with music teacher and choir director Lori Williams singing “Oh, Freedom” and “We Shall Overcome,” both of which were performed by Joan Baez in 1963 at the March on Washington. Williams then directed the Wilson Concert Choir in performing “Famine Song,” a piece about the famine in Sudan, Africa in the 1980s. Principal Martin then addressed the crowd, and included a touching recount of her experience visiting the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel, where Dr. King was murdered. After Martin was finished, everyone took a seat on the grass and the speech was projected.
When the video came to an end, the crowd erupted in applause. Seniors Mati Cano, Damani MacAdoo, and James Sarokin who founded Common Ground, a student run club to end self segregation, led the audience in a reflection on the speech and on race relations in our community. Both students and adults relayed their thoughts to the crowd and responded to questions posed by Common Ground. The afternoon ended with a thank you from ReVeal, but discussion persisted even after the event was over.
Cano, who helped lead the discussion that followed the speech, believes that “open dialogue is the first step in changing a problem. If people are open and talk about things that are tough to talk about I think it goes a really long way.” Martin sees the importance in open conversation as well, especially when it comes to parents. “I think that sometimes parents might think ‘Why are you spending time talking about this issue instead of focusing on academics?’” she says. “I think when they hear it from students and see a student-run event, it changes the way they feel.” Indeed, many of those who voiced their thoughts and appreciation were parents.
Both Cano and Martin believe this event was just the beginning. Cano hopes that attendees will “go out and have those discussions with their families and in their communities and their workplaces and just really encourage that open dialogue.” He believes these conversations are especially important in the Wilson community, because he and the rest of Common Ground see many issues in the neighborhood regarding race relations.
Martin predicts that events like this one, the bias training that teachers had before school started, and last year’s screening of “I’m Not a Racist… Am I?” for the class of 2017 will affect injustices within Wilson. “I think recognizing our natural tendencies and noticing how systemic factors have influenced things that have hurt people is an important start to us healing and creating an equitable school,” she says. She has planned multiple screenings of the aforementioned film, which analyzes the way teenagers see race. The screening for underclassmen will be held between August 30 and September 1 during school hours, and held for the community on Wednesday, August 31 at 6:30 p.m. These showings will take place in the auditorium.
The “I Have a Dream” event was truly student-run. ReVeal raised $3,000 in one day via gofundme.com which covered the projection costs. She also met with various lawyers and city planners to ensure she had the rights to the video. ReVeal, Cano, MacAdoo, and Sarokin’s hard work paid off, and delighted Martin. “I’m so proud of these kids. God, I love these kids… I’m proud of the research that they do and the way that they’re trying to uncover something, you know, America’s original sin, which is something that has been really invisible to many many many Americans. They’re trying to open it up, dissect it and figure it out, and that’s hard work. Good for them.” •
PHOTOS AND VIDEOS COURTESY OF WILLIAM PERRIGEN, SITAZEN BLAKE PHOTOGRAPHY