On Jan. 12, for the Second Annual One Hockaday: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration Program, all Hockaday students, faculty and staff, packed into Penson Athletic Center to celebrate the life and legacy of the renowned leader and visionary.
The sense of community began far before students, faculty and staff stepped foot in the gym, as many gathered in Biggs Dining Hall for the community breakfast. Along with SAGE staff members making omelets for the community, HelpDesk Service Manager Braxton Hall and Physical Education Coordinator Melanie Horn-Foster performed “Great is Thy Faithfulness” a cappella.
In Penson, the program began with three faculty members, physical education coordinator Melanie Horn-Foster, fourth grade math teacher Gina Hunter and Lower School music teacher Sabrina Kessee, who sang the soulful ballad “Amazing Grace.” After a rousing a standing ovation by their students and fellow faculty, Tresa Wilson, the direction of Inclusion and Community, welcomed the crowd.
Introducing the purpose of the celebration, Wilson urged students to “find their story.” Following Wilson’s quick introduction, the Grammy Award winning gospel group “Myron Butler and Levi” performed a moving piece titled “Imagine Me,” a song by Kirk Franklin.
The song was followed by a rendition “Listen” by Beyonce, performed by Hockaday juniors Ariyanna Easter, Dawn Ford and Kate Short.
After another standing ovation from the excited crowd, Eugene McDermott Head of School Dr. Karen Warren Coleman commenced the celebration with inspiring words for her students, and reminded the community of the inclusivity Hockaday strives for.
“I am dedicated in creating a community where you all are valued and can thrive; where each member of the community is improving their unique experiences and contributions. By cultivating this type of community and ensuring that everyone knows and understands that they have a purpose, we will learn and grow from one other,” Coleman said.
Coleman then introduced the returning keynote speaker, Dr. Frederick Douglass Haynes III, the Senior Pastor of Friendship-West Baptist Church here in Dallas. He is well-known and revered in both the Baptist and African American community; in fact, he was invited to speak at the funeral service of Nelson Mandela.
Dr. Haynes roused the crowd with his enigmatic speech and colorful stories. Never skipping a beat in his rhythmic speech, he engaged the students, who were all at the edges of their seats, and taught the group the importance of finding their inner light. He also emphasized that it wasn’t enough for one to be successful; they must help others succeed as well.
Following Dr. Haynes, the all-school choir, which included staff; faculty and student, was directed by Dr. Raymond Wise and performed three interactive gospel pieces: “Walk On”, “Trouble Don’t Last Always” and the well known, “We Shall Overcome”. Dr. Wise, who Hockaday welcomed back from last year’s MLK celebration, is the director of African American Choral Ensemble and associate director of African American Arts Institute at Indiana University Bloomington.
“Trouble Don’t Last Always” and “We Shall Overcome”, as Dr. Wise explained to the crowd, are gospel songs, so they are a collective art: the audience was encouraged to participate in singing and clapping with the choir.
And that the audience did. The entire community came together, clapping along with Dr. Wise, singing on the top of their lungs and swaying to the beat.
Next, Wilson introduced an audio presentation of Dr. Martin Luther King’s “What is Your Life’s Blueprint?” speech. The group watched in shared reverence.
A slew of performances that grasped the community followed, including “Rise up” performed by eighth grader Julianna Lu, “Stand by me” performed by the Hockaday Show Choir, “Feeling Good” performed by juniors Emma Carr and Cindy Lu and freshman Leah Segal and lastly, “I Look to You” performed by senior Quinn Brodsky, featuring Myron Butler and Levi.
The community left the building with a new sense of self-worth, inclusivity and the knowledge that all of us hold a light inside, waiting to harnessed, which lasted with the group, long after the door’s closed.
Story by Paige Halverson and Cheryl Hao
Photos by Lauren Puplampu