The Lasting Influence of Dr. King

On the evening of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, the Middlesex community explored and celebrated Dr. King’s legacy through presentations given by several faculty members, each of whom was guided by the question: How does MLK’s message still animate and inspire your work today? Individually and collectively, their responses highlighted not only the significance of Dr. King’s work for civil rights and social justice but also the compelling power and beauty of his words, which were quoted throughout the program.

As the School’s director of community and multicultural development, Carmelo Larose spoke about Dr. King’s legacy as a private citizen who worked to bring about positive change. In his eloquent “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” he encouraged all people to care about and participate in causes of social justice, writing, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

In turn, five faculty members spoke about Dr. King’s influence on their lives and/or areas of study. For Tasheana Dukuly, English teacher and coordinator of multicultural student outreach, Dr. King “inspired who I am and what I do” in her career as an educator who hopes to ensure equal opportunities for all students. Drawn to Dr. King’s nonviolent approach of “meeting physical force with soul force,” Visual arts teacher Megan Morrison ’09 shared several examples of “art protest,” such as a wall of graffiti created in the 2011 Egyptian revolution and, more recently, peace posters printed in St. Louis after the shooting death of Michael Brown.

Director of Spiritual and Ethical Education Cabell King reflected on Dr. King’s calling as a religious thinker, a preacher who said that civil rights were simply “part of my ministry” and who believed that all people were obligated to stand against injustice and inequality. Acting on that belief in fighting inequality, history teacher and soccer coach Ken Risley shared past experiences of recruiting young players in Zimbabwe, where he found soccer to be a bridge that could improve educational opportunities for students with fewer alternatives.

Considering the struggle for civil rights from his perspective as a music teacher, Marcus Rabb selected ten songs or musical events that represented important moments in the 20th century, from the 1900 hymn, “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” which has often been called the “Black National Anthem”; to Charlie Mingus’ 1959 jazz piece, “Fables of Faubus”; to Stevie Wonder’s 1981 composition, “Happy Birthday,” written to promote the creation of an official holiday honoring Dr. King.

As Mr. Rabb aptly summed up, Dr. King’s message was one “of love and hope.” To that end, Mr. Rabb encouraged everyone to look at how they treat other people. “Love yourself,” he concluded, adding, “Don’t let people marginalize you, and don’t do that to others.”