On January 21, 52 members of the FWCD community, from 44 separate Zoom logins, joined together at 7 p.m. to honor the late Martin Luther King, Jr., through a communal reading of “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” The event was sponsored by the Fort Worth Country Day Institute (CDI), an interdisciplinary co-curricular center for original programming and special events for ALL members of the FWCD community.
Dr. King wrote his letter in response to criticism of the nonviolent protests in Birmingham, Alabama, in April 1963. In it, he responds specifically to a statement published in a local newspaper by eight white clergymen, calling the protests “unwise and untimely” and condemning the “outsiders” who were leading them. King starts his letter acknowledging the clergyman’s sincerity and and “genuine goodwill” to set a tone for positive and reasonable discussion.
Spencer Smith, Upper School English Teacher, randomly assigned paragraphs to those in attendance who wanted to read. Parents, students, faculty and staff each took their turn reading aloud. The youngest reader was Laila Rafati ’29.
“Dr. King's letter is a literary masterpiece, and reading it aloud foregrounds the poignancy and urgency of his message,” Smith said. "I wish I had the words to explain how that works, but it simply has to be experienced. There's also something unspeakably beautiful about hearing Dr. King's words uttered from such a diverse group of voices.”
Students who participated revealed the range of emotions they felt while reading aloud themselves and hearing others read: sadness, empowerment and inspiration.
“Reading Dr. King's letter revealed to me that there is still much work to do toward the world he envisioned,” said Joaquin Castro-Balbi ’22. ”Most strikingly, his letter showed me that there is also great danger toward progress in the ‘silence of the good people.’”
Sydney Cyprian ’22 shared, “... being a person of color, it really hit me with deep sadness hearing the comparisons between MLK and my father. Hearing my dad's stories about his experience never truly hit me until I heard MLK share the exact same experiences as my dad.”
Humility is what Reshma Niraula ’22 thought. “Despite the range of emotions he felt, rage or confusion, he was able to promote peace and unity through his humbleness,” she said. “I am thoroughly amazed by how one person was able to change the whole nation back then and still today. His words created a profound impact during the Civil Rights Movement. Still, his words are revered as ever … vivid and empowering as ever … as if he were still alive.”
Betty Weaver ’22 thought that the reading was interesting in that it provided an insight into the mind of MLK that she had never seen before. “It was almost as if I was having a conversation with MLK himself,” she said.
The CDI hopes to celebrate Dr. King annually in an "MLK Forum" that will feature FWCD community members alongside special guests who specialize in the history of Civil Rights and/or racial reconciliation efforts.
Fort Worth Country Day (FWCD) is a JK-12 private, independent, coeducational, nondenominational college-preparatory school located on approximately 100 acres in Fort Worth, Texas. The mission of Fort Worth Country Day School is to foster the intellectual, physical, emotional, and ethical development of capable students through an academically rigorous college preparatory program that integrates the arts and athletics.