Celebrating the Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Preparing for Black History Month

Jessie Skipwith

We are steeped in learning. It is one of the best things each of us can do to grow in our empathetic understanding of the lives of others. For so many of us, it is our calling and our life’s work, and it is how we can honor and respect the dignity of the human beings in our lives; both living and past. The life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is one such reminder in and of itself, however let us not forget the many other lives of countless African-Americans and other civil rights leaders of so many different backgrounds who gave their lives fighting for justice, equality and the dignity of humanity for all people. 

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated for his beliefs in 1968 and in 2022 we continue to fight for the same human rights that he died for. This is an amazing thought to consider.  Although we have come a very long way in our work for justice and equality for all people throughout the world, I myself am just one generation removed from parents who had to leave their home state of Virginia in the 1960’s where it was illegal for them to get married, to arrive in Maryland where they could legally be married as a bi-racial couple. Yes, we have come a long way in this one generation, and yet we are still called to learn, educate and increase our awareness of the real-life experiences that are a vivid part of the identity of so many today.

These values that we pursue collectively make sense to us. At Aspen Academy, we aspire daily to carry out our school’s mission, vision and values of Be Kind, Do Good, Work Hard, and Make the World Better. We stand witness to the inseparable connection between these core values and our commitment to cultural competence and celebrating diversity, equity and inclusion. Our values are right and they are inherently good for everyone, and we are fortunate to leverage these values in our school community as we partner with parents in the education and formation of their children.

It is kind and good to see others for the entirety of who they are. Our individual pasts are made up of a collection of stories that inform our psychology, our perceptions of self and others, and yes, even the biases that we bring to our daily lives. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. never said the fight for justice and equality would be easy ~ and so we Work Hard, as uncomfortable as this might be. We work to hear and see students and parents every day for who they truly are, as they are invited and welcomed to be their authentic selves. And when we see and hear others’ stories of personal formation, we Make the World Better by honoring each unique individual.  Our work toward this end is absolutely and undeniably mission aligned. 

We are so fortunate to belong to a school community that identifies the importance of aligning our daily work with honoring your child for who they are. Each morning we greet and welcome so many different kinds of kiddos, from all walks of life, and we are joyous in seizing the opportunity to shower your children with the love they yearn for, deserve, and that they are so fortunate to receive from you, their parents and guardians. Thank you for the trust and partnership that you extend to us as our students arrive insatiably curious about the variety of lives lived by so many others. And as educators, we are committed to our own daily learning and growth so that we can effectively address the many questions that your children bring to school with them. 

Each year as the month of January comes to a close and February greets us with new and exciting content to joyously celebrate, we honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his example of courage, kindness, peaceful protest and civil dialogue in pursuit of taking on the next several decades of growth that we are fortunate to face head on. He is one man who had an amazing dream. And although this dream was laser focused on overcoming a multitude of injustices for any number of reasons, today we can see much more clearly the attitudes and behaviors that brought these injustices upon all of humanity. As such, we take up our own torch and renew our own commitment to addressing these injustices so that we can truly celebrate all of the goodness that we have seen up to this point, as well as be inspired in creating new historical moments of joy. 

I invite each of you within our community to be joyful together as we come to know and understand more clearly the many ways we can live out our school’s mission, vision and values by being intentional in our acknowledgements of others and who they are. By learning as much as we can about as many different people as we can. As we lead our children to a brighter future. I hope you are able to dive into and leverage the many resources provided below to inform your courageous and loving conversations with your children all year long and not just one month out of the year. Thank you for your courageous partnership on this journey.

 

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About the Author

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Jessie Skipwith is the Director of Elevate, Licensed School Counselor, and Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Aspen Academy.

Jessie comes to Aspen Academy with over 20 years of experience in educational leadership and student engagement. He has held head of school positions at elementary, middle and high schools, ran an all-school counseling department, provided private practice counseling services for families and individuals, and has served as the executive director of an education non-profit supporting low-income, English language learners from throughout the greater Denver area. He is a voracious reader of books about how students learn, how families and communities support developing young people, as well as books on progressive, innovative and dynamic new solutions to many of today’s life challenges. Jessie loves that Aspen Academy provides families and students with a small, nurturing and safe environment that encourages students to take healthy risks, to push themselves beyond their comfort zones, and that it inspires insatiable curiosity and wonder in students as they pursue their passions to help make the world a better place to live for all people. Outside of work, he loves to spend time with his wife and two children and enjoying Colorado’s great outdoors while hiking, golfing or skiing.