This week we honor and reflect upon people who have challenged the status quo and improved social justice in their communities. We hold this event annually as an All School Activity called Peacemakers.
The name Peacemakers is relatively recent at PDS, as is the expansion of the event to include peacemakers from many eras and locations. The original commemoration is based around the work of Dr. Marin Luther King Jr.
I spent some time this week searching for an “historical” perspective of our PDS commemoration. Fortunately, math teacher Barbara Wood, who is a graduate of PDS, was able to help me understand how deep the respect for King and civil rights has been in our school history.
Barbara shared with me that even before we had a federal holiday, PDS had January 15th as a day off from school to “observe the great man and his life, and also to make a statement that we were in support of legislation to create the holiday.” As observations of the holiday became more common, PDS began to hold school on that day, specifically to make sure that some education and observance could take place in the lives of the school community.
In the past dozen or so years that I have been a faculty member, some of our school observances have centered around King and civil rights. Others have expanded to include people around the world. Our observances have grown very active and student-centered, with each class or grade having a contribution that was generated by a project in the classroom.
I support the way our work has developed. When students are asked to find the good that has been done by ordinary people in the world, they are inspired and empowered. For this year’s Peacemakers event, students discovered a peacemaker through research, and made a poster explaining who that person was and why that person made a difference.
In the case of Inge Missmahl, a visit to Kabul moved her to alleviate suffering. Claudette Colvin was a teenage when she defied laws and integrated the seats on her bus.The posters will be viewed by small groups representing every grade in the school. As a group, students will use what they’ve learned from the posters to construct a definition of what a peacemaker is. We will gather in the theater for some collected words, and sing together. The mixture of activity, reflection and music will make the event memorable.
From our school history to now, what remains consistent is the thoughtful effort and deliberate care in helping students understand that when people do the darkest, unjust things to each other, there have always been others who stand up and work to bring justice to their time and place.