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January 18, 2024

The SPS community observes Martin Luther King Jr. Day with special programming, outside guests.


The SPS community gathered on Monday to observe a special Martin Luther King Jr. holiday — one that fell on King’s actual birthday of Jan. 15. Students spent what would have been the Civil Rights leader’s 95th birthday with special guests the Rev. Arleigh Prelow, an Emmy award-winning filmmaker and associate minister at Boston’s Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church, and Camerata Baltimore, a Maryland-based professional choir that promotes the choral arts to the public, particularly in underserved communities of color. An extended chapel service that featured remarks by Prelow and several performances by Camerata Baltimore was followed by form-specific film viewings — including an advanced screening and discussion of Prelow’s in-production project “The Psalm of Howard Thurman” for members of the Sixth Form. During her chapel remarks, Prelow explained that Thurman’s spiritual writings were among those that King drew upon in his own work.

“Howard Thurman led countless people to water’s edge, a sacred place of encounter with the divine,” Prelow shared during her chapel talk. “[Dr. King] wrote to Thurman about the need to spend time with him and discuss concerns of their hearts … he felt the need to spiritually refuel and retreat from some of the endless activity of the movement.” Drawing a parallel between the demands of King’s work and the pressures that come with being a young person today, Prelow encouraged those in chapel to find their own water’s edge. “It could be as being an active listener to another’s heart,” she said. “Or it could be in the pages of a book in your room. Water’s edge could be a song sung, music played, a dance danced. … And when you make that trek to water’s edge, lead others to it.”

After lunch, the day’s formal program ended with a particularly joyful water’s edge: a closing performance by Camerata Baltimore in Memorial Hall that brought students, faculty and staff to their feet to sing and dance along, followed by cupcakes, ice cream and a birthday cake in honor of King.

While 2024 marks the 60th anniversary of the signing into law of the landmark Civil Rights Act that prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin, SPS Director of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Justice Initiatives Bethany Dickerson Wynder notes that “we have more work to do to fully abide by this law. So, for SPS, MLK Day represented a day on, not a day off, as the community worked to make meaning of, reflect on and integrate the lessons they heard in chapel and the documentaries they watched while also finding joy in the celebration of a life well lived.”

Adds SPS Chaplain the Rev. Charles Wynder Jr., “Celebrating Dr. King allows our students to learn and celebrate King’s commitment to the Beloved Community through a willingness to sacrifice monetary gain, status, position and ultimately his life to advance the civil rights of African Americans, the economic rights for the poor, the dignity of workers and the human rights of people around the world.”