Martin Luther King Jr. Community Program

Angela Adu-Boateng ’24 and Jessica Luo ’24

Angela Adu-Boateng ’24 & Jessica Luo ’24
Contributors
Martin Luther King Day on the Island
Loomis Chaffee began Martin Luther King Day programming with an all-school convocation with award-winning author of The Privileged Poor and Harvard assistant professor, Dr. Anthony Jack. He was chosen as the speaker for a myriad of reasons, including his ability to connect with students and spark conversations around complex topics.
“In Anthony Jack’s work, he talks about the privilege…heavily dependent on your economic ability to [afford] education,” Dr. Ashley Augustin, Chief Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Officer, said.
The school believed Dr. Jack had the personality to speak to our community, a large high school population, and ignite interest in talks about economic justice, the theme for this year’s MLK programming.
“[Dr. Anthony Jack] encourages the students to understand that it’s okay to ask hard questions. If you really want to create change, you have to question your current systems,” Dr. Augustin said.
PRISM (People Rising In Support of Multiculturalism), a student-led club on campus seeking to educate and represent a variety of diverse voices and issues on campus, hosted a series of discussions, events, and performances surrounding this year’s theme: a hot topics discussion on reparations, a financial literacy series, and a poetry slam and jazz band performance.
“I feel like [the slam poetry night] was a great learning experience, and people had fun [as well]. I think we should have more open discussions like this because when students did perform, it was fantastic, magnificent, and extraordinary,” Jordan Russell ’25 said.
The power and impact of economic justice often goes unnoticed, but this year’s programming hopes to address these issues facing our country.
“When I think about the core values in the United States—life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness—money is also part of the picture. They say that knowledge is power, but there’s a lot of power behind money too. If we really want to think about equity and access, money needs to be a part of the conversation,” Dr. Augustin said.
Financial literacy is one of the various facets of economic justice, but many people remain confused about its meaning.
“Financial literacy is an understanding of all the financial terminology, vocab, and skills that make you better prepared to understand how to manage your own money,” Mr. Mat Denunzio, social science faculty and an organizer for the Financial Literacy Speaker Series, said.
The connections between financial literacy and economic justice are often unclear, but there is an immeasurable potential for financial literacy to create change on a global scale.
“There’s a stigma around discussing finances…It’s seen as a conversation that only those in the middle and upper class have, and, as such, it suppresses dialogue around low-income needs and can perpetuate problems [in the working class]. Financial literacy is not as big of a hurdle as we make it out to be. We just have to provide those resources to access it,” Mr. Denunzio said.
Organizing the speaker, financial literacy series, and MLK week took the work of numerous faculty members, but the empowerment of the entire LC community was needed to truly spread the message of economic justice.
“Economic and systemic racism in our economy is one of the most severe types of racism because it causes long-term problems such as wealth gaps, disparities in homeownership, and misguided beliefs about race. Financial literacy is an essential tool for people of color to have because it is a way to work against the systematic oppression we have endured for generations,” said Inari Barret, ’23.
Dr. Augustin commented on how “it speaks volumes when our students can have a voice.” Having role models and mentors amongst the student body encourages participation in difficult conversations.
“It was really interesting to have a chance to talk with peers who are coming from different backgrounds, be enlightened by what their [experiences are], and compare and contrast that with where you’re coming from,” Jamie Patton-Martin ’25 said.