Norfolk Academy’s Upper and Middle Schools recognized the impact of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement that he led with chapel presentations, in advance of the national holiday celebrating his life and achievements.
The Upper School witnessed a powerful performance of “Glory” by eleven members of the senior class, who sang, played instruments, and danced. “Glory,” originally performed by American rapper Common and American singer John Legend, and written by those two performers and Rhymefest (Che Smith), was used as the theme song for the 2014 movie, Selma. It won best original song at the Academy Awards, and it also won awards at the Golden Globe and Grammy award ceremonies.
The song’s rapid and intricate rap verses were performed by Balthazar Denk, while the soaring and varied chorus sections were sung by Emme Pike and Maiya Foleck. Sarah Yue played piano with John Leo Luecke on percussion, and three string players: Anthony Asuncion on violin, Cabell Jones on cello, and Andrew Gross on bass. Three seniors performed expressive modern dance: Brammy Rajakumar, Jenna Archambeau, and Marissa Mejia.
The Upper School’s annual Multicultural Day, which was moved from a date in January to February to accommodate the schedules of special guests, will focus on diversity and inequity in government and business practices.
The Middle School chapel, organized by the Cultural and Ethnic Awareness Club (CEAC), focused on unsung heroes of the Civil Rights Movement; that choice was inspired by a presentation to the club by Dance Master Elbert Watson, who spoke to them about Crispus Attucks (1723-1770), a dockworker of mixed African and Native American descent who is considered to be the first person killed in the Boston Massacre, and as a result, the first American killed in the Revolutionary War. However, Attucks’ life is not spotlighted in many American history courses.
The presentation by the students focused on leaders of the Civil Rights Movement whose contributions may have been less appreciated due to the immense shadow cast by Dr. King; those individuals include Bayard Rustin, who was a critically important organizer of the March on Washington, but who was sidelined due to being openly gay; Rustin has recently been getting more attention and credit from historians and the media. The presentation also introduced students to some current activists, such as Michelle Alexander, whose award-winning book, The New Jim Crow, about the impact of mass incarceration in the United States, has made her a sought-after speaker.
The club is also setting up an interactive bulletin board with the headline: Have we achieved Dr. King’s dream? Middle School students are invited to respond “yes” or “no” and provide some reflections that relate to their responses.