On Tuesday, January 21, students of color took the assembly stage to celebrate the spirit of activism inspired by the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and so many others since.
The program began with a moment of silence for all those fighting for justice all over the world, and the acknowledgment that Nobles itself stands upon “the traditional territory of the Massa-adchu-es-et, the original peoples of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.” Olly Ogbue and Yara Da Silva, both ’20, encouraged, “May we all continue to uplift each other and create spaces where people can unlock their own power.”
After reflecting on some of the history of protests in our country, and the power of coming together to demand change, students explained their selection of this year’s assembly theme, “Why We Can’t Wait: The Unheard Voices of Our Generation.” They said, “Dr. King stated that ‘Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.’ Racial justice is an ongoing fight, and the moment that we go silent is the day our lives, lives working towards freedom and equity for all, begin to end … From climate change to gender equality, the youth of today have exemplified what it means to make our voices heard … We must work tirelessly just as Dr. King and thousands of students before us.”
Acknowledging social justice movements around the globe, students said, “Facing injustice can be painful, especially when we understand that we all have a role in it, although none of us created the systems that hold injustice in place. But we all have a choice about whether we will work to interrupt these systems or support their existence by ignoring them. There is no neutral ground; to choose not to act against injustice is to choose to allow it … Today, we have the opportunity to create a more just world.”
Next, students showcased inspiring activist and entrepreneur Ja’Mal Green, 15-year-old Canadian indigenous water activist Autumn Peltier, poet Kondwani Fidel, activist/philosopher Grace Lee Boggs, Puerto Rican human rights activist Jose “Cha-Cha” Jimenez, political activist/educator Gloria Arellanes, transgender singer/songwriter Kim Petras, and remembered Trayvon Martin, an unarmed teenager from Florida murdered by his neighbor.
Marieko Amoah ’22 shared a powerful series of poems: Justin Lamb’s “For the People Who Ask Me If I’m Tired;” Summer Durant’s “Same” and L.V.’s “For All Of Them.” Angie Gabeau ’21, accompanied by Dylan Cleverly ’21 on piano, moved the audience with her rendition of Sam Cooke’s civil rights anthem, “A Change Is Gonna Come.”
The program culminated in students and faculty members sharing the stage to express their own urgency in acting for justice, sharing their “I can’t wait because…” statements:
- Jeremy Rodriguez ’21: “I can’t wait because in the United States, 39 percent of African-American children and teens and 33 percent of Latino children and teens live in poverty, which is more than double the 14 percent poverty rate for non-Latino, white, and Asian children and teens.”
- Sammy Guerrero ’20: “I can’t wait because only 32% of Hispanics graduate from college within four years.”
- Saffiyah Coker ’20: “I can’t wait because 1 in 5 women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetimes.”
- Yara Da Silva ’20: “I can’t wait because there are only 33 women running Fortune 500 companies and only two of them are of women of color.”
- Giana De La Cruz ’20: “I can’t wait because 10,300 youth are locked up for ‘offenses’ that aren’t even crimes. I can’t wait because more than 9,500 youth in juvenile facilities — or 1 in 5 — haven’t even been found guilty or delinquent, and are locked up before a hearing (awaiting trial).”
- Jeffrey Alphonso ’20: “I can’t wait because my brothers and sisters are still being killed by the hands of a state.”
- Angie Gabeau ’21: “I can’t wait because I have to worry about the safety of my black and brown family and friends every single day.”
- Adam Cluff (faculty): “I can’t wait because the tenacious persistence of white supremacy in America endangers the safety and dignity of every one of us.”
- Meghan Kelleher (faculty): “I can’t wait because saying that change is slow is a passive and dangerous excuse.”
- Christian Figuereo ’23: “I can’t wait until people realize that Latinx people come in all shapes and forms, and that they are not all from the same place.”
Following the assembly, presenters shared this list with the Nobles community for further learning, including articles, essays, books, music and web resources. The department of diversity, equity and inclusion is collaborating with the library faculty to feature additional resources, stories and to offer events that celebrate the contributions and accomplishments of black Americans for Black History Month and beyond.