By Director for Equity & Inclusion Dyan Watson, Head Chaplain VJ Sathyaraj, and All-School Community Engagement Coordinator Kristen Haferbecker
On Monday, January 16, 2023, individuals and communities across the country will mark Martin Luther King, Jr. Day as a National Day of Service. The theme for 2023 is “Cultivating a Beloved Community Mindset to Transform Unjust Systems,” according to The King Center—a nonprofit founded by MLK’s wife, Coretta Scott King, to continue Dr. King’s legacy.
Our OES commitment to justice calls us to “Actively build individual and collective capacity to grow in strength, understanding, and empowerment to act as anti-racist members of the OES community and beyond.” Because this commitment aligns so deeply with what Martin Luther King, Jr. fought for, taught toward, and believed in, we want to invite the OES community to engage in a Season of Action, beginning on January 16 and extending throughout January and February.
In this article, we share OES's commitments to action through our Chaplaincy and Equity & Inclusion work, as well as ways you and your family can get involved in action on MLK, Jr. Day and beyond.
Connection through Chaplaincy
The work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., resonates with our Episcopal identity and therefore the chaplaincy program. Chapel provides a place for quiet reflection around essential truths common to the religions represented in our school, especially the understanding that truth and justice are inseparable. To live in community, to engage in actions of care, to look beyond the narrowness of one’s own life to experience the richness of every kind of diversity is to live a life of fulfillment. That a collective commitment to caring for others is essential to our own well-being is our aspirational hope. It is through the practice of reflection that our students will discover their place in the world, given their talents, proclivities and propensities, and open opportunities for commitment and engagement to address the challenges of our times.
In each division this month, starting with the Lower School Chapel on Tuesday, January 17, there will be Chapels focused on the work and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Connection through Equity & Inclusion
In 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was jailed after leading a march in Birmingham. While in jail, he received a letter from a group of White Alabama clergymen criticizing his timing and tactics, and accusing him of being an outside agitator. King responded in one of his most beautiful pieces of writing, “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.” In it he wrote:
“…I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. 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.”
The Office of Equity & Inclusion encourages each of us to think about two or three ways in which your family and/or members of your networks are “tied in a single garment of destiny” with at least one other group not a part of your family or close network. How can you and your family/friends stand up for someone else through your actions? Please see the list below for ways to serve the community, and consider ongoing ways beyond these next few months to challenge inequality and uplift someone else.
We also encourage everyone to read one of Dr. King’s letters or speeches this month. Here are three of his more famous ones that call folks to action:
Please feel free to check in with your division’s librarian for book recommendations about Dr. King or the Civil Rights Struggle generally.
Last, please do not “sit idly by.” We, as a community, cannot afford to wait for someone else to act. That someone is you. We cannot afford to only fight for ourselves. We must unite by extending our hand to each other and striving to weave a new garment of equity and justice.
How can I take action?
We encourage you to set aside time on MLK Jr. Day and throughout this Season of Action to engage in action centered in the broader needs of the community.
The Office of Community Engagement has arranged some opportunities for any and all OES community members—students, families, and employees—to be in service together. Spots are limited. Please sign up by emailing Kristen Haferbecker.
- Children’s Book Bank at SMART Reading: February 25, 1–3 p.m. Help restore gently used books to be distributed to children across our city who do not have equal access to books at home. Ages 10 and up only.
- Western Farm Workers Association tamale-making: February 7, 6–9 p.m., Hillsboro United Methodist Church. Join OES community members and others to make tamales for the WFWA annual tamale fundraising event. You will start at 6 p.m. for a short orientation, but you can leave early as you need. All ages welcome.
- Neighborhood House Food Pantry: February 4, 10 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Help get food ready for distribution to our neighbors experiencing food insecurity. Ages 8 and up.
- Project Lemonade: January 28. Help process the OES Middle School Season of Light sock donation to go to foster youth. Information coming soon from Chaplain Mel Robinson or Assistant Head of Middle School Laura Todis on how to sign up. MS students only.
Check out this list for local service opportunities on MLK Jr. Day, as well as links to Portland-area racial justice organizations where you could commit ongoing time or support.
Black Lives Matter Week of Action: Feb. 6–10, 2023. To consider what actions are needed to take care of our own community, Upper School students will engage in a Black Lives Matter Week of Action, Feb. 6–10. Led by the Peer Activism and Advocacy Coalition (PAAC) Activity, students will take time during the week to develop sustained practice in inclusion and belonging.
In his 1967 book Where Do We Go From Here?, Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice.” In this spirit, we encourage you to take the time over the next month to educate yourself within this framework. Take this invitation to come alongside us as we educate our students. And use this month to take action based on your deepening commitment to this work in our world. Thank you!