“I have a dream.”
The powerful speech by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. roared through Lenape High School’s halls as students and staff became participants in a movement.
In August 1963, King delivered the speech at the Lincoln Memorial and sparked widespread change and protests throughout the country for civil rights. Nearly 57 years later on Wednesday, Jan. 15, Lenape High School staff and students hosted its annual March for Martin, becoming participants, in and out of the halls, of the movement as they learned lessons of respecting and honoring differences, becoming one community and igniting a fire of change.
Hundreds of students linked arm-in-arm with their peers and faculty as the marched throughout Lenape, an action some said helped make King’s speech all the more powerful.
“While MLK was heavily in African American and the Civil Rights movements, it’s cool to see people of every color participate in this march,” senior Jevon Torres explained. “It’s his message that resonates with people in his race and is directed toward everyone, respecting our differences and appreciating our differences. (It) was cool to see everyone involved.”
Senior Matrice Tobin, who marched all four of her high school years, said walking helped her feel the emotions and the message the Civil Rights icon preached to thousands.
Other students and staff members who were not in the march heard the speech over the loudspeakers, which school psychologist and No Place for Hate co-advisor Kambrianna Corona said forced everyone to stop and listen.
Prior to the kinetic activity, the high school hosted keynote speaker Hazel Ryner, who shared his own experience with feeling left out and being different, in the auditorium.
His speech ended with him tasking students to reflect on moments where they’ve mistakenly alienated others because of their differences, and learn it’s a product of “the life they have lived.” Doing so helped create a sense of empathy and understanding with others, he explained.
“What is happening now where I can be a better Upstander?” Ryner asked, rhetorically. “I love that term and the slogan. To be an Upstander, one has to think beyond himself or herself, including beyond others and taking that from one generation to the next.”
Wading through the halls, Lenape High School’s sister schools – Cherokee, Shawnee and Seneca – were well-represented as groups of students and staff arrive to spread a message of unity.
This year was the first year the schools were invited.
“By bringing all of the kids in with one umbrella, central theme, it prepares them to go out in a logical community to live a life that is productive and bring in who they are,” Ryner passionately explained. “Each individual in that group has a different experience by virtue of the family they are born into and virtue of the community in which they live.”
Student Christina Figueroa added it was powerful to be with the other students and walk beside them.
As the march concluded, the students said, as it was one activity on one afternoon, they know teachers will be doing activities year-round on the experience and the No Place for Hate program.
“At Lenape, they’re going to reflect on the ‘I Have a Dream’ speech and they’re going to write their own speeches and we’ll create a display for that,” Corona concluded. “We want to zone in that everyone has a dream, big or small.
“It’s a dream you have and (King) showed the way you can take charge of that dream.“