In Pursuit of the Beloved Community: Annual Celebration of Dr. King Inspires Students

Every year, the Masters community gathers to honor and celebrate the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and this year, his philosophy of “the Beloved Community” was front and center.

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Dr. King, a prominent civil rights leader, began referencing the idea of the Beloved Community in the late 1950s as his vision of a better, more just society — one based on love and equality. On Wednesday, January 17, the Masters community learned about and discussed this concept during a full day of events. 

The day began with an all-school meeting in the Fonseca Center, where several students, Head of School Laura Danforth, Associate Head of School for Inclusive Excellence Selas Douglas, and guest speaker  Adam Harris, an award-winning journalist, took the stage. 

Executive Committee Co-Chairs Mahlet Messay ’24 and Arjun Ratan ’24 opened the meeting and spoke about the importance of community. Messay shared her lifelong admiration for Dr. King, noting that she had a poster of one of his speeches in her room as a child. 

“I admired his unwavering faith in humanity, his love for his community, and how he spoke to a crowd,” Messay said. 

Ratan highlighted the School’s mission: a community of diverse individuals, we gather to learn, to strive, to dare, to do, to be a power for good in the world. 

“There is a reason you’ve heard [our mission] a thousand times,” he said. “A community where no two people are the same. Here, that is not a weakness, it is our greatest strength.” He challenged the community to “work collectively to foster our own Beloved Community, predicated on the legacy and work of Dr. King and people like him.” 

The co-leaders of the Middle School’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion leadership group, Jisella Jorsling ’28 and Riley Dixon ’28, shared background on Dr. King’s life. 

Jorsling said, “We honor him for all his hard work, and we strive to uphold his values.” And Dixon connected King’s work directly to the School: “Our diverse community [at Masters] is his legacy.” 

The Fonseca Center then filled with the sound of “Lift Every Voice and Sing” — often referred to as the Black national anthem — sung by Shaza Murigande ’24, Keira Burgos ’24 and Sage Weinstock ’24.

Tower Co-Editor-in-Chief Lucas Seguinot ’24 introduced Adam Harris, a reporter who covers education and national politics at The Atlantic. Harris spoke about the history of higher education and historically Black colleges and universities. 

Dean of Inclusive Excellence Esperanza Borrero, who planned the day with her colleagues in the Center for Inclusive Excellence, explained that the School invited Harris to speak because “We talk about institutional racism, but seeing how it has played out in history makes it much more meaningful.” 

Dixon described Harris’ talk as “truly enlightening,” and was particularly struck by the story Harris told of how the first Black students to enter a white college were treated. “Those students must have been very brave,” Dixon said. 

The staff of Tower, the School's student-run newspaper, had the opportunity to interview Harris for an installment of the Tower Broadcast News' series on affirmative action and then have lunch with him. For Selas Douglas, that meeting was the highlight of his day: "It felt so impactful because we were able to connect them with someone who is actively living what many of them hope to live in the future, and we don’t always have the opportunity to make such an explicit connection."

In the afternoon, students participated in workshops where they could discuss Harris’ speech in the context of the Beloved Community, dissect the critical issues raised by Harris about equity in higher education, and watch a film about Dr. King’s life, among other activities. 

Ratan took part in two workshops, one on shared identities and the other on the history, impact and continuing legacy of Black musicians. “I really enjoyed the ‘Who are you? Who are we? Stories of Shared Identity’ workshop because it allowed us to see who is represented in our community and how we all have parts of our identity that are unique and parts that are shared,” Ratan said. He also appreciated learning about the struggles Black artists have faced and continue to face in the music industry. 

For Borrero, the highlight of the day was “watching everyone come together for a shared purpose.” After all, she noted, “It isn’t enough just to have a vision of what you want your community to be; you also have to live and breathe it for it to become real.” 

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