PDS Marks Martin Luther King Jr. Day with Student Performances and Presentations
PDS Marks Martin Luther King Jr. Day with Student Performances and Presentations

Upper School students led a moving assembly today in observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, putting racism in personal terms and stressing the importance of continuing Dr. King's work in pursuit of a more just and peaceful society.

English faculty Caroline Lee and Anthony McKinley, along with Director of Wellness Services Dr. Candy Shah, Theater Manager Ben Malone and Upper School Dean of Students Elizabeth Monroe, helped coordinate this morning's sequence of events, juxtaposing historical footage of Dr. King and the Civil Rights Movement with student performances and presentations.

Clockwise from top left: Lydia Pamudji '19, Nashleen Salazar '19, William Scarlett '19, Zoe Rivera '20, Sasha Sindhwani '19, and Krista Caasi '20.

Nashleen Salazar '19 contrasted the privilege of attending a school like PDS with her previous schools in Trenton, where violence was an inescapable reality of daily life. "Sometimes," she said, "all we need is for people to believe in us, because after hearing stereotypes for so long, we start to believe them, too."

William Scarlett '19 and Zoe Rivera '20 recited powerful poems that grappled with the history of racism, its devastating toll on individual lives as well as our society, and the ways in which the fight for civil rights is just as urgent today as it was in Dr. King's era.

Sasha Sindhwani '19 recalled her experience at the Women's March in Washington, D.C., with a group of close friends. "Even though we knew so much about one another, we had never really talked about race," she noted. But by coming together with a common purpose, she explained, she was able to feel one with the group and also to broach difficult conversations on a subject about which she had previously remained silent.

Lydia Pamudji '19 conjured educator and activist Jane Elliott's famous Blue Eyes-Brown Eyes experiment, in which Elliott used an arbitrary distinction to help her students understand racism in a more visceral way. Dividing into two halves the McAneny Theater filled with Upper School students and faculty, Lydia delivered an impassioned plea for the audience to understand the anguish of being discriminated against, and to take up the cause of eradicating racism.

Krista Caasi '20 earned a standing ovation from the packed theater for her performance of "I Know Where I've Been" from the hit musical Hairspray. The song's lyrics evoke the long march toward justice and the aspirations of the Civil Rights Movement: "There's a dream in the future, there's a struggle that we have yet to win, and there's pride in my heart 'cause I know where I'm going, yes, I do, and I know where I've been."

The program concluded with student presenters silently bowing beneath an uplifting and unifying banner that read, "Love Wins."

-Justin Goldberg

From left: PDS Upper School student presenters Sasha Sindhwani '19, William Scarlett '19, Lydia Pamudji '19, Zoe Rivera '20, Nashleen Salazar '19, and Krista Caasi '20.