MLK Day celebration honors Black voices through music, speeches


Eric Lam

Jubilee Singers perform at North’s MLK Day celebration in the auditorium, Monday, Jan. 16.

Peter Edwards

Students and speakers from across Newton celebrated the life and teachings of Martin Luther King, Jr. with speeches, poems, and music at the 55th Annual Community Celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr. at North’s auditorium, Monday, Jan. 16.

This MLK Community Celebration was the first entirely in-person iteration since the start of the pandemic. “It just felt good to be back together with everybody,” said event leader Reverend Devlin Scott. “COVID put everything on a pause and we had to stop and try to adapt, but it feels so good to be with community members in person again.”

The morning opened with a performance from Luidgi Daniels, a local youth singer. Daniels sang what is known as the “Black National Anthem,” a moving piece called “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing.” 

After Daniels’ performance, Mayor Ruthanne Fuller delivered a moving speech and pledged to “develop all students’ social, emotional, and academic competencies so that race and other forms of identity are not predictors of academic success.” Fuller’s speech about the power of justice, equality, and nonviolence was a strong combination of reflections of the past and visions of the future.

With the hope of challenging the audience to confront their own biases, freshman Chris Sterling delivered a thought-provoking speech on inherent racism in schools and the ways students of color are treated. “Why is it that when I walk through the halls of Newton North, and have a one to two second interaction with a white person, “said Sterling, “I have to give up a piece of myself so they feel comfortable. How many more pieces of myself do I have to give up?” 

Another highlight of the morning was the Jubilee Singers’ rendition of “Voices of Freedom,” arranged by director Sheldon Reid.

Voices of Freedom is a medley of meaningful songs, including “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing” and “Oh, Freedom,” creating a beautiful chorus of hope and resilience. “It’s built on songs that are coming out of the Civil Rights movement, places of struggle,” said Reid. “We’re largely talking about unity and civil rights and equality and justice.”

Next, keynote speaker Jessie Tauriac, Ph.D., a psychology professor at Lasell University, gave a presentation on the effects of racial inequality. He also praised the work of various civil rights activists, with the intent of bringing awareness and inspiring reform.

Daniels closed the celebration on a happy high note with a remixed, call-and-response take on Michael Bublé’s “Feeling Good.”