Honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Through Poetry

Every year, the VCS community recognizes the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. with an assembly and a related project. These activities and discussions have taken many forms, and this year’s project brought together students’ appreciation for Dr. King and their own creativity as they worked with visiting poet-educators Darius Daughtry and Ashley M. Jones to compose poems inspired by Dr. King.

When working with 3rd/4th Graders, Ashley and Darius focused their preliminary discussion on who Dr. King was and what he achieved, inviting students to share all that they knew before filling in any gaps in their knowledge. Once students had spent some time thinking about Dr. King and his impact, they considered what they would want to say if they could speak to him and composed poems in the form of letters to Dr. King.  

Students in 5th-8th Grade began their meetings with the visiting poets by reading excerpts from Dr. King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” and discussing the techniques he used to provoke empathy in the reader. After seeing how Dr. King addressed racial injustice in his writing, students were asked to write poems addressing any injustice that was meaningful to them; some wrote about racial injustice, others about gender inequality, climate change and other topics.

On Thursday afternoon, staff and students in 3rd/4th Grade and above gathered in the Auditorium for our annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Assembly, where student volunteers paid tribute to Dr. King by reading the poems they had written. It was remarkable to hear young students express themselves so thoughtfully on difficult topics and to see the strength of their conviction to fight injustice in the world, just as Dr. King did. As always, we also celebrated Dr. King through song, joining together for “Hold On” and “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” led by a chorus of staff.  

We are so grateful for the important lessons around diversity, leadership, justice and self-expression our visiting poet-educators shared with us throughout their time at VCS. While we may have said goodbye to Darius and Ashley, students will continue to be inspired by the work they did together, and K-2nd Graders will have the opportunity to learn from them even in their absence, as Ashley and Darius left lessons that will guide these younger students as they prepare for their own Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Assembly this spring.