By: Talia London
Student Coalition for Human Dignity and Keepers of the Dream helped honor the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. by creating an impactful video which helped spur important dialogue in the community. Although Briarcliff typically holds an annual assembly for Martin Luther King Day, the format of this presentation had to be altered to accommodate the new hybrid learning schedule. Student Coalition president Raghav Rastogi explained that although virtually putting together this video was a challenge, it allowed for more creative freedom and a different form of expression.
The diversity in Student Coalition allowed for this impactful presentation by representing different demographics such as the Black, Jewish, LGBTQ+, and Muslim communities. The modernization of MLK’s dream is expressed in the video as these students speak for the equality, awareness and inclusion of various groups that are marginalized.
The video commenced with MLK’s I Have a Dream speech and continued as students stated their own personal dreams. “I have a dream… a dream that one day we will look past the differences and perspective and identity and come together…that I will not be judged by where I come from but who I am, embraced by all” (Raghav Rastogi). Raghav talked about the “melting pot” of different cultures, religions, ethnicities and identities in the classroom and the world and how we can appreciate and embrace these cultural differences, instead of discriminating against what is not familiar.
“I have a dream that one day I will not be viewed as inferior, but as equal” (Kyla Miller).
Kyla spoke on the innocent deaths and attacks of black people while the video showed several of their names. She explains how fueled by these horrible acts of racial injustice, Black Lives Matter movements broke out throughout the world to fight this cause. Although most of these acts were completely peaceful, protestors were still teargassed, shot with rubber bullets, and beaten.
“I have a dream that I will no longer face backlash based on my religion but will be celebrated for my traditions and cultural identity” (Rachel Kern). Rachel talked about the rising discrimination towards the Jewish population. She explained how Anti-Semitism is still a very real and prevalent issue that thrives off social media today and provided examples of Jewish schools being harassed with Nazi imagery and violent Anti-Semitic acts have broken out on many college campuses. These examples were all carefully chosen as heart wrenching pictures were displayed as she spoke.
“I have a dream that I will be perceived as more than just a letter of an acronym, but as equal, as human” (Zach Hoyer). Zach talked about hate crimes and microaggressions towards the LGBTQ+ community, and how impactful these discriminatory acts can be to someone’s identity. Zach also touched on the laws about same-sex marriage and other basic rights that have been threatened.
“I have a dream… that I will no longer be thought of as a threat, but as a person” (Aaqib Mansoor). Aaqib shared his struggle with people who expressed hatred for the Islamic religion (Islamophobia). Due to terrorist groups such as ISIS and events such as 9/11, people have stereotyped all Muslims to be terrorists and hate them for it. Aaqib explained how his family had to assure others that they were not terrorists by having American flags outside of their home.
From an audience’s perspective, the virtual presentation was powerful on a different level because of the intimacy of having students speak directly to the viewers as compared to being further away on stage during past assemblies. Regardless of the medium, this year’s presentation emphasized the critical message that all of us have basic human rights no matter who we are, and we need to fight for them to keep the dream alive.