The Preparation of Grace’s 2021 MLK Symposium

This year’s MLK symposium was modified considerably compared to years past. Dr. Nathan, one of coordinators of this year’s MLK Symposium, discussed the new changes and preparations needed to launch these events. 

The organizers kept many goals in mind when creating this event.  Dr. Nathan said in an interview that “In creating the symposium six years ago, the initial hope was that we could empower students in the still-new high school to teach one another and learn from one another, in order to foster a student-centered and responsive approach to our equity work.” According to Dr. Nathan, the aims for these symposiums grew with the program and the organizers hope that students will continue to create spaces for thinking about and discussing subjects related to race, identity and anti-racism. 

This year, the organizers had to consider many aspects of the event, including what would be included in the multi-day symposium and how it would be structured. In addition, the organizers attempted to incorporate past components into this year’s MLK symposium, such as student/faculty-led workshops, a keynote speaker and grade-level work. 

One of the most notable changes in this year’s symposium was that the schedule spanned over the course of the week, rather than one single day. The organizers considered how to provide the right number of workspaces to accommodate the student body. In previous years, there were typically two workshop sessions, but due to the expansion of this year’s programming, there had to be more. Therefore, encouraging students and faculty members to take the initiative to lead spaces was crucial in the preparation of this year’s symposiums.

Dr. Nathan hopes that, with the opportunity to lead and direct their own spaces, students will feel comfortable voicing their concerns and talking about issues that are important to them. Class of 2023 Dean Ms. Wood, who also played a significant role in developing and creating the initial symposiums, specifically intended the symposiums to provide a space where students could give attention to these difficult topics without the pressure of trying to solve or completely fix the issues raised.  

When asked about his favorite aspect of organizing the event, Dr. Nathan said that he enjoyed  collaborating with students and colleagues and hearing from students about their experiences of assuming the role of a facilitator or teacher. Dr. Nathan wants to let people know that the symposium creates space to focus our attention on the topics of race and antiracism in our lives, but we should not imagine that giving these issues attention in the symposium gives us leave to deny them attention at other times or in other spaces.”

He hopes that “people will think of the symposiums as a launching pad, not as a landing site.”

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