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Loyola Celebrates MLK Day with School Assembly

Our school community gathered on Thursday, January 11, for a special assembly to celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. 
Opening the assembly were powerful drumbeats and images projected on the wall of the west gym of individuals whose mission and work carry on Dr. King’s vision of peace, unity, and equality, including Audre Lorde, Frederick Douglas, Ann Atwater, and Maya Angelou among others. E.J. Maggitt ’24 led our community in prayer in the words of Dr. King:

“O God our eternal Father, we praise thee for gifts of mind with which thou hast endowed us. We are able to rise out of the half-realities of the sense world to a world of ideal beauty and eternal truth. Teach us, we pray Thee, how to use this great gift of reason and imagination so that it shall not be a curse but a blessing. Grant us visions that shall lift us from worldiness and sin into the light of thine own holy presence. Through Jesus Christ we pray.”

Sinit Gebrehiwet ’24 delivered a welcome and explained the purpose of the day’s gathering to honor Dr. King and the many people of the Civil Rights movement. Karen Asante ’24 and Michelle Boaitey ’24 then highlighted the four quilted banners hanging in the gym. They explained the importance of quilting for African Americans for over 400 years: “Africans who were forcibly taken into slavery preserved their culture and shared messages of liberation through the art of quilt making. Like singing, quilting is often a communal activity. Working together makes the work go faster. Sewing collectively provides a space for sharing skills and stories, sorrows and celebrations.”  

A performance by Loyola’s STEP Team followed, introduced by Eddie Bitew ’24: “Step is a centuries-old dance style that combines sounds and movements to create a powerful performance. Step has origins in West Africa. Hand clapping and foot stomping have been documented as elements of African folk dances from as early as the 15th century,” he explained. STEP Team performers were Amanda Takor ’25, Luwam Melaki ’24, Esther Debrah ’24, Esther Ochang ’24, Michelle Boaitey ’24, and Karen Asante ’24. 

Harrison Yeboah ’24
introduced a brief video of Dr. King’s speech at the State Capitol in Alabama after the march from Selma to Montgomery on March 25, 1965: “King’s speech offers nothing less than a spiritual call to action.” 

Esther Debrah ’24 elaborated: “Listen, King was saying. Listen. And in doing so, he invoked a song with spiritual foundations but whose lyrics carried a powerful, universal reach: ‘Not long, because no lie can live forever. How long? Not long, because you shall reap what you sow… How long? Not long, because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice. How long? Not long, because: Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord; He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored; He has loosed the fateful lightning of his terrible swift sword.’”  

Next, Devion Johnson ’24 played “When I am Dead My Dearest” on bass clarinet, and Mayode Oluwole ’25 led our community in honoring the six U.S. Black Catholics on the path to sainthood. These incredible people were trailblazers for peace, justice, equality and freedom in the United States and they were committed to the work of Catholic education and, like Dr. Martin Luther King, the lives they led are examples of how we can live a faith that does justice:  

Father Augustus Tolton, introduced by Mykael Russell ’24
Sister Thea Bowman, introduced by Melat Geberihiwet ’24
Mother Mary Lange, introduced by Mayode Oluwole ’25
Julia Greeley, introduced by Esther Ochang ’24
Mother Henriette Delille, introduced by Mayode Oluwole ’25
Pierre Toussaint, introduced by Enoch Appiah-Kubi '24

Director of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Ms. Sarah Bennett introduced keynote speaker Senite Barih '20, founder and chief financial officer of The.BlkRoom, a Chicago-based organization and community network facilitating opportunities for BIPOC artists and creatives. Senite spoke about her experience at Loyola Academy, including the many activities and student groups she was involved in, and closed the assembly with a special performance, singing “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing” and “Chaotic,” an original song she wrote.

View a slideshow of the presentation here.

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