ICCSD MLK Day recap

ICCSD’s MLK observation day was held virtually this year on Wednesday, Jan. 13. Here are some highlights.

Maggie Huang, Online News Editor

ICCSD held its annual MLK day celebration for the fourth year on Jan. 13. This year’s sessions covered a diverse range of topics including student activism, civil rights, blues music and many more. Students from grades 7-12 attended three virtual sessions in the morning, followed by asynchronous learning time in the afternoon. Students, teachers and community members came together to plan these learning experiences designed around diversity, equity and social justice.

Dasia Taylor ’21 is just one of the students that led a session. Taylor is also a member of the equity advisory committee, school safety advisory committee and shared her experiences during her session. One component of her session, Students As Agents of Change: Past, Present, and Future reviewed the work that civil rights activist Ella Baker did in founding the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. The other components allowed students to learn the experiences of previous students that enacted equity-focused change in the district and shared advice on being active in movements for change in the future. Special speakers of the session included Olivia Barker ’20 and Caroline Barker ’22. Their experiences of collecting testimonies from students of color and presenting them at school board meetings led to implicit bias training for the entire district.

“The purpose [of the session] was to allow more student leaders to take over when we’re gone. We have to keep this momentum going because if we don’t, then the whole spark fizzles out and there’s really nothing of substance left. [We wanted] students in the audience to get involved and take their activism to the next level,” said Taylor.

Taylor talked about the importance of being active in these conversations, stating that a constructive conversation won’t be possible if participants are not present. “I expect everyone to come to the table and be present, and by present I mean focused, paying attention and absorbing the information,” Taylor said.

Taylor is currently the chair of the equity committee and is also the first student to ever be chair of a district committee.

“This summer, in general, has put a large fire behind everybody in the district and administrators of any kind because of the [Black Lives Matter] movement that happened this summer,” said Taylor. “We are still able to be on Zoom and get everyone’s point across, which I think is the most important part, but the summer, in general, has definitely accelerated some of the work that the district has been trying to do.”

However, Taylor recognizes the negative effects that the pandemic has had on the equity work. “I would say that getting student input has been difficult because students don’t really have the motivation to do school work, let alone comment on these issues,” Taylor said. “Being in person would help more students of color to lead sessions, specifically at West when we are in person, I think we did a really good job last year with the diversity committee because we were able to reach out to people all the time talking about leading an MLK session. I was able to get a lot of people to participate [through just reaching out to them].”

As for students that are interested in equity issues, Taylor advised students to attend school board meetings, join the equity committee, and reach out to building admin about issues that are important to them.

When talking about the session she led, Taylor said, ”I had never led a Zoom meeting by myself. it was phenomenal, we had 100 participants. Some people that I work within the district joined in, it was amazing to have them there and witness and attest to the things that I was saying. Overall it was amazing. It gave me insight on how powerful my words are.”

[Leading a session] gave me insight on how powerful my words are.”

— Dasia Taylor '21

Similarly, the online learning director of the district, Gregg Shoultz, said “Overall, we felt that the 2021 MLK Jr. Day of Learning was a success. We had over 40 unique learning opportunities ranging from student panels to the history of the blues to local community leaders such as Mayor Bruce Teague and Dr. Keith Carter. The day was organized by a planning committee consisting of teachers from all 7 secondary buildings, so it was truly a team effort.”