By: Sofia Chroudri
Ninety-one years after Martin Luther King Jr.’s birth, and nearly 57 years after his famous “I Have a Dream” speech, the question still remains: has his dream been fulfilled? Are we judged by the content of our character; not how different we are? Are boys and girls of different colors able to join hands as sisters and brothers? Has the nation risen up and reached equality? It would be naive to say yes, but we cannot deny the progress that has been made. Just 8 months ago, the tragic and brutal death of George Floyd sparked a national Black Lives Matter movement. Keepers of the Dream, a new club to Westchester and Briarcliff, strives to keep MLK’s dream relevant within our school community.
“It’s a middle ground for students of different perspectives to talk.” says Raghav Rastogi, senior and co-founder of the Briarcliff chapter. “We really want this to be a safe haven for students to talk freely.”
Keepers of the Dream is a county-wide club that meets virtually every other week. Their goal is to create a space for high school students to discuss social justice issues, current events, and personal experiences. Some of the past topics have included criminal justice reform, climate change, and healthcare. They’ve even brought in guest speakers such as Dr. Flonzie Brown Wright, a renowned civil rights activist.
The Briarcliff chapter is led by Mr. Goldberg and Mr. Pellegrin. The members are currently working to embrace the concept of diversity within BHS. They are closely collaborating with the Student Coalition for Human Dignity. Students recently watched “Keeping The Dream: A Tribute to the Legacy of MLK Jr.” in their social studies classes, an inspirational video put together by these two clubs. Students of different backgrounds spoke on ongoing acts of hatred in the areas they relate to. They urged Briarcliff students to take initiative in educating themselves and achieving the dream.
Keepers of the Dream also helped to push for a new course that will be available next year for juniors and seniors. Classism, Racism, and Sexism is a college course that will focus on issues we see today. It will be one of the first big steps to reach a better level of knowledge on these important matters.
At the faculty level, the club is pushing for implicit bias training, intended to educate teachers on matters of diversity within the school community. Dr. Bryant Marks is an award-winning educator who has provided diversity, equity, and inclusion training. He has served on President Obama’s Board of Advisors with the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans. Dr. Marks has also trained the Los Angeles and New York Police Departments. These trainings are the next steps to achieve MLK’s dream of inclusivity and acceptance. Hopefully with Dr. Marks’s training, Briarcliff faculty will be able to proactively prevent and be better equipped to handle any situations that arise.
Keepers of the Dream and SCHD hosted a virtual discussion on keeping MLK’s dream alive in the younger generations. A group of students from Briarcliff and neighboring schools joined to discuss various topics. These topics included how the dream has progressed and evolved since the 60s, acknowledging the unwavering prevalence of racial injustice (among other issues), cultural inclusion into elementary school curriculum, and overall the definition of inclusivity. While a common goal of wanting change caused a relative like-mindedness in the discussion, hearing different voices, different stories, and different perspectives was incredibly refreshing.
Keepers of the Dream provides an opportunity to feel safe. To speak your mind. “I have a voice to talk to the students, but also the administration on changes that need to happen,” said Kyla Miller, a junior member of the club. “I never really had a sense of home in Briarcliff,” said Raghav. “Doing this type of work, it allows me to find a sense of community. And I get to create that community for those who don’t really have one.”
It is a unique experience to have an outlet in times of controversy. It’s a safe space and it fosters the conversation that would not otherwise occur. These are the steps that lead to finally achieving MLK’s dream, both within our small town of Briarcliff, and throughout our nation as a whole.