By: Bryan Geary
Gathered in the Fred Andrew Smart Chapel on an authentically rugged New Hampshire winter day, students and faculty sat together for a special occasion. Each year, on the holiday honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. we are reminded of the many incredible, brilliant statements the civil rights leader delivered either verbally or in print. On this day, student and faculty leaders guided the school in a closer look at Dr. King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.”
Some passages are familiar to all of us:
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
Other, lesser known, parts of the letter are reminders of the context from which his most famous quotes are derived:
“For years now I have heard the word ‘wait.’ It rings in the ear of every Negro with a piercing familiarity. This ‘wait’ has almost always meant ‘never.’ I guess it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say ‘wait.’”
“But……when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six-year-old daughter why she cannot go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her little eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, you will understand why we find it difficult to wait.”
“Having a place where students of color can meet to talk about shared experiences is a way that students may find fellowship that they may not find elsewhere in the community.”
– Chuck Carter, Head Athletic Trainer and Science Faculty
“The excerpts you hear today,” said David Allen, a Social Studies faculty member, “are excerpts from the letter he wrote in his jail cell, which still bear repeating and deserve to be heard today.”
Tilton’s Black Student Union (BSU) led the school in this crucial reflection honoring the life and legacy of Dr. King. Advised by Allen, Head Athletic Trainer and Science faculty member Chuck Carter, and Arts faculty member Terri Smith, the group is open to all students who wish to attend, regardless of race or ethnicity.
“Having a place where students of color can meet to talk about shared experiences is a way that students may find fellowship that they may not find elsewhere in the community,” said Carter.
The weekly BSU meetings typically include friendly and casual conversations regarding topics of race, or simply time to hang out together in a space where students of color can be heard and feel supported. “We plan events that aid in bringing more awareness and education around issues that affect the black community, including today’s program about Dr. King,” said Smith.
BSU is also organizing the design of posters to be hung in Skinner Tower during the month of February, honoring and raising awareness for Black History Month.