The students of Loomis Chaffee filed into Olcott Gym on Saturday morning to listen to Tony Hatch, a professor at Wesleyan and the author of Blood Sugar: Racial Pharmacology and Food Justice in Black America. The topic of Professor Hatch’s speech thoughtfully introduced the focus for the rest of Pelican Day—the issue of institutionalized racism through limited access to food.
Ms. Elizabeth Parada, the Director of Multicultural Affairs, chose the topic of this Pelican Day. She explained the reasoning behind her unique choice: “I was immediately drawn to Professor Hatch’s work because it tied to Dr. King’s lesser known work to help the poor, and it is a major way in which we see racial social injustice.”
Following Mr. Hatch’s speech were teacher-led group sessions with various topics and goals such as investigating food deserts with Ms. Courtney Jackson, shopping on a budget with Mr. Eric LaForest, Ms. Lilian Hutchinson, and Mr. Fred Seebeck, and studying the underlying health impacts of a high sugar diet with Mr. Neil Chaudhary and Dr. Erica Gerace. These groups helped students develop a deeper understanding of the problems addressed in the convocation.
With Pelican Day as a starting point, the commemoration of Dr. King’s life has grown throughout this past week with various events to continue the conversation. While most schools choose not to extend the commemoration past the designated holiday, Ms. Parada explained that “We can take advantage of our school schedule with the Pelican Day and convocation during community time [and] people who attend all the programs benefit from more time to discuss and process what they are learning and experiencing during our events.”
As part of this continuation, students attended the annual convocation on January 21, which was hosted by PRISM and showcased student performances. The performances included a moving dance about the harsh political climate and dehumanization of minorities by The Loomis Dance Team, an original spoken word poem by Oumi Sowe ’20, and an original rap titled “Got MLK” by Tre Fowlkes ’21.
PRISM also played a prominent role in successfully organizing many opportunities for the students to share their own opinions after the convocation. The schedule included a student-led panel discussion on Race as a Social Construct on January 22, an open PRISM meeting and dinner celebration on January 24, and a Spoken Word Poetry Slam on January 25.
When asked what messages the club strove to achieve through planning such activities, PRISM president Simone Moales ’21 responded, “As we were planning out the events for the week, we were hoping to build upon Dr. Martin Luther King’s dream by promoting a strong sense of community through a mutual respect and love for each other.” Each event PRISM plans for MLK day welcomes all viewpoints and encourages students to attend.
MLK week is a chance for everyone to educate themselves about social conditions and to mourn the loss of one of the greatest peacemakers in history. Loomis Chaffee aims to accomplish these two goals and continue the conversation on our campus in hopes to create a informed and connected community.