Despite frigid windy weather, over 100 hardy adults and children gathered in the Winchester Unitarian Society’s Metcalf Hall on Monday, January 21 to honor Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday through pictorial, written, and oral art reflecting Dr. King’s justice work. The Network co-hosted this 22nd annual event with Winchester’s Family Action Network (FAN) and with volunteer set-up help from eight Winchester High School juniors in the National Honor Society.
The art came from scores of Winchester students, kindergarten thru 5th grade. Highlights included seven fictional “slave journals” authored by Lynch Elementary School 4th graders in Laura Barber’s class. While younger kids present were creating their own art and enjoying cookies donated by Whole Foods Market-Woburn, two of the “journal” authors, Maddison von Mering and June Woodward, read excerpts describing the fear and horror of their capture by slavers and their powerless lives thereafter.
These articulate young authors were followed by two award winning professional story-tellers: Norah Dooley and Ben Cunningham. Ms. Dooley’s first stories were about Martin K Luther King Jr’s life as a child just like the ones in attendance. He played, caused mischief and eventually was confronted by the adult-enforced social divide between black and white neighbors. She then spoke and sang of specific US civil rights campaigns—including the Birmingham Children’s Crusade march, Ruby Bridges’s bravery around school integration, and lunch counter sit-ins—highlighting instances where students were courageous and persistent front-line activists who overcame great odds. The common theme of these historic vignettes, and of Ms. Dooley’s highly interactive Haitian folk tale, was the power of student solidarity to overcome evil and create justice.
Ben Cunningham, two-time winner of Massmouth’s Big Mouth, followed with two colorful animal kingdom stories full of noisy creatures with comic movements on frightening quests. These adventures ultimately teach their protagonists (mostly frogs or monkeys) lessons—about the silliness of stereotypes and about the need to “give back”—that people of all ages might apply. Ms. Dooley closed by reminding us that the song sheets, inspiring quotations, and reading lists she distributed suggested many ways to honor Dr. King’s legacy through love, solidarity, bold action, and art.