One Hockaday celebrates community

Students, alumnae join to recognize MLK, participate in service


Alumnae Brittani Carter- Durant Hite ’05 speaks at the assembly. She founded the social impact firm Ethos Equity Consulting to identify and work to resolve systemic obstacles to justice.

Kailey Bergstedt

Lower, Middle, and Upper School students and faculty gathered in the Penson gym on the morning of Friday Jan. 13 for the Martin Luther King Jr. One Hockaday celebration. This year was the first year the celebration took place in person since the COVID-19 pandemic. It included a poetry reading, performances by Upper and Middle School choir and Upper School’s dance company and speeches by Dr. Laura Leathers, Head of School, and Brittani Carter-Durant Hite ‘05.

“Opportunities to create change are all around us, so continue rising, taking action and leading by example,” Hite said. “No matter the size of the change, the world is waiting for you to create it, so why not you and why not now.”

With these sentences, Hite concluded her speech during the celebration. In past years, Tresa Wilson, Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, coordinated and planned the entire event. Since her departure last year, Laura Day, Founding Executive Director of The Institute for Social Impact, helped with the coordination of this year’s celebration.

“This year, there was a group of people that had been involved in the past who came together and used the framework Ms. Wilson had used in the past to make it happen,” Day said.

One of these people was Lower School music teacher Sabrina Kessee. Kessee, who has supervised the celebration’s music selection in past years, chose all of the music for this year as well, including the exit music and the songs that the choir performed. 

The choir practiced several times in the week leading up to the celebration, where they sang “Lift Every Voice and Sing” and “You’re the One.” Songs that played during the exit included Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror,” Sister Sledge’s “We are Family” and Al Green’s “Put a Little Love in Your Heart.”

“I chose these songs because they really followed the theme of impact, specifically the impact that Dr. King made on bringing people together and ensuring that marginalized people were brought to the forefront of conversations.” Kessee said. “These songs were reminders of how to create impact within our community as well as how to ensure we take responsibility to create change anywhere we see that it is needed.”

Four seniors in Hockadance also performed a routine. Christie Sullivan, the Director of Dance, choreographed the dance and chose the dancers, like she did in past years. Following the dance performance, Hite spoke about how everyone has the ability to stand up for what they believe is right and impact positive social change, similar to how Martin Luther King Jr. did. 

“All too often, people believe that a unique ability or qualification is required to be a changemaker, but a willingness to embody the change you desire and push past the challenges that arise is something anyone can do,” Hite said. 

To conclude the celebration, three Upper School students read a poem aloud. As in previous years, Dr. Mira Cranfill selected the poem and students who recited it. 

“We read a poem called ‘Praise Song for the Day’ which was also read during one of President Obama’s inaugurations,” junior Jessica Chung said.

After the celebration, Upper and Middle School students assembled in OneHockaday groups for an “Impact-A-Thon,” where they brainstormed and collaborated on short videos to motivate people to recycle. While some students enjoyed the celebration, others, including members of the Black Student Union, wished it would have focused more on MLK himself. 

“I really liked hearing about ways I can lead a life of impact, but I also would’ve liked to hear more about MLK’s life and legacy during the assembly,” junior Alyssa Anderson said.

In her speech, Hite focused more on impact and related that to MLK’s legacy, wanting to inspire future generations of changemakers.

“It’s important to honor the holistic legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. because he faced adversity and ultimately death, in order to catalyze equitable change,” Hite said. “Unless we acknowledge his struggle and the things he fought to change, we put ourselves at risk of forgetting history, and that’s when it tends to repeat itself.”