Virtual MLK Day Celebration still resonates

Event looked different this year with video replacing live assembly


Dr. Raymond Wise, Professor of Practice for the Department of African American and African Diaspora Studies at Indiana University, Bloomington, accompanied by the Allen Trio Project led the All-School Mass Choir in singing during the 2018 MLK Day Celebration. The choir consisted of students from Middle School and Upper School. This performance was a part of the video that followed the live Celebration this year. photo provided by Scott Peek Photography

Juliana Blazek, Staff Writer

The Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration looked different this year with a virtual presentation, but the performers and speakers did not fail to impress the community with their talents.

The live portion of the celebration was followed by a video incorporating speakers and performances from past years in addition to a few new performances for the 2021 celebration. The new performances ranged from dancing to singing to poetry and all were recorded after numerous rehearsals and days of preparation.

“Over Thanksgiving break, I had to learn the song and practice how I wanted it to sound and be presented,” Shayle Cruz, who sang Lift Every Voice and Sing by James Weldon Johnson in the celebration, said. “I then met with Ms. Kessee, Lower School Music Teacher, and Ms. Poe, our Choir Director, and they helped me perfect my piece and make it as good as it could be.”

Cruz’s singing was accompanied by senior dancers Clarissa Touchstone and CeCe Tribolet in a performance Upper School dance teacher Christie Sullivan ‘95 choreographed. The singing and dancing were collaged together so that the audience could see all the performers at once.

“I always enjoy sharing what I love to do with others especially when it comes to a cause like this when we are in such a tough and trying time,” Touchstone said. “It was great that we still got to have this assembly and listen to inspirational speakers who reminded us that there will be a time when this is all over.”

In another performance, Juliana Lu sang the song Rise Up by Andra Day again this year as she did in the 2018 MLK Celebration.

“I really love this song because it’s a song that doesn’t just talk about persevering through obstacles,” Lu said “It’s also about breaking barriers and rising to the occasion which I think is very inspiring and powerful to talk about.”

With a variety of performances shown at the celebration, sophomore Neha Gottimukkala performed a poem that she wrote inspired by and matching the style of Dr. King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech.

“This celebration amazed me with all the talent in the school and inspired me with the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.,” Gottimukkala said. “Regardless of the limitations of the virtual platform, the celebration still inspired me through the speeches, music and dances.”

Before the performances, the celebration began with an introduction from Tresa Wilson, Director of Inclusion and Community, and Dr. Karen Warren Coleman, Eugene McDermott Head of School, and then keynote speaker, Karla Garcia, Dallas ISD, District 4 Trustee.

Ms. Wilson and Dr. Coleman introduced Karla Garcia, who then spoke about encouraging Hockaday students and faculty to believe in themselves and to start their own path, not allowing their gender to be a roadblock in any way.

Changing the MLK Celebration to a virtual assembly was difficult, but students and faculty were still grateful that the event was able to take place.

“I would have preferred for it to be in person, but I know with everything going on it’s best for it to be virtual,” Cruz said. “I’m still very impressed and glad that they made it happen.”

One of the perks of a virtual celebration was that this year’s performers could rehearse and record their performances until they were satisfied, which helped relieve the stress of standing in front of a big audience.

“In a way, this virtual platform allowed me to think about how I’m not only singing to the camera, but also singing to every person watching through their screens, their phones, and their laptops,” said Lu, “having it in video form makes it easier for the message of this song to reach a wider audience.”

Another part of the virtual celebration included a culmination of videos from past MLK celebrations, allowing students and faculty to remember or see for the first time the performances that happened in previous years.

“It was really sad that we didn’t get to be together, but I still think that the assembly was really impactful and I enjoyed getting to look back at past years, too,” Touchstone said.

In place of the Unity Walk that typically follows the assembly, the celebration continued Jan. 19 with a moment of silence in remembrance of victims of racial injustice.

“I think this celebration really let me see how close and how strong our community is,” Cruz said, “since this was still something that we could do even if we were all in different parts of campus.”