Martin Luther King Jr. Day—Steward-Style

A recap of the day's events.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s messages from more than half a century ago continue to resonate throughout the world, and Steward’s community is no exception. The school’s planning for the holiday stirred positive conversations along many lines.

The weekend was kicked off by a visit from an unlikely speaker: 12-year-old Elijah Wood, an ordained minister from Gaston, North Carolina, whose efforts have been recognized nationally as part of the Marvel Hero Project. Elijah spoke to Middle and Upper School students during an assembly on Friday, January 17, challenging them not to let their youth stand in the way of pursuing their passions. His father passed away unexpectedly when Elijah was three years old, and he remembers that being a turning point in his life, recognizing in subsequent years that he didn’t have to let it define the path that lay ahead for him. Instead, Elijah chose to adopt a cause (child abuse) and plan a march, organizing every aspect of it himself. When the response to the march was overwhelmingly positive, Elijah realized that he could use his voice for good, and he has gone on to organize more marches and be more active in causes that are important to him.

About 90 people attended Steward’s main event on MLK Day: a private screening of the new movie “Just Mercy” and a follow-up lunch discussion. The movie tells the true story of how a young Harvard-educated lawyer established the Equal Justice Initiative in Alabama in the early 1990s, focusing on one racially-charged case in particular. The movie was used as a springboard for the lunch discussion, which was led by local pastor and justice advocate Ashley Diaz Mejias, who is also the author of Erasing Institutional Bias. Ms. Mejias provided some Richmond-based examples of ways the correctional system could work better to reduce retribution bias and increase restoration for the incarcerated. Attendees were then encouraged to participate in small-group discussions with questions that Ms. Mejias provided.

Steward’s Coordinator of Campus Life and Community Stewardship Rashad Lowery, one of the organizers of Monday’s event, was very pleased with the turnout and feels like the movie alone was an excellent conversation starter. “It was such a great story…it would leave anyone ready to learn more and reflect,” Mr. Lowery said about “Just Mercy.” “These same stories are happening today, which is disheartening.”

In addition to the movie event, a group of 18 Upper School faculty and students who are members of the National Honor Society visited Evergreen Cemetery to conduct a service project. They bundled up in the cold to restore headstones and grave markers that had suffered decades of neglect and overgrown kudzu. They also assisted families who were trying to locate the graves of family members. Evergreen is a historic African-American cemetery, where notable Richmonders such as Maggie Walker and John Mitchell, Jr. are buried.





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