Where Do We Go From Here? 3rd annual Martin Luther King Jr. Youth Leadership Summit explores the path forward.

In her opening remarks to kick off this year's Martin Luther King Jr. Leadership Summit at Thacher, Head of School Blossom Beatty Pidduck set the intention of the summit's conversations with a question: Where do we go from here? "How do we find common ground to do the work we must?," she said. "How do we know if we are taking the right actions? How do we build trust? How do we heal what needs to be healed? How do we disagree and still move forward, still take meaningful action, still live in community?"

The community began seeking answers to these questions with a Sunday night conversation between author, activist, and educator Bikari Kitwana and voting rights activist Desmond Meade, a formerly homeless citizen who went on to become the Executive Director of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition and lead the effort to restore voting rights to over 1.4 million Floridians with past felony convictions (the largest expansion of voting rights in America in half a century). The pair discussed, among other things, the challenges to a more inclusive democracy. 

On Monday, Professor Loretta Ross joined faculty and staff and then later spoke to all students about how to have more productive conversations with people with whom we vehemently disagree, which she believes begins with giving people the tools to call people in—instead of calling them out.

"A call in is actually a callout done with love and respect," said Ross, a civil and reproductive rights activist and organizer and visiting associate professor at Smith College. "Because you're really seeking to hold people accountable for the potential harm that they cause, but you're not going to lose sight of the fact that you're talking to another human being. And so you extend a hand of active love and active listening to help them maybe stop and think about what they said."

The day continued with affinity group sessions and a closing/share out to reflect on the summit's learnings. 

"We know that the path ahead, like the path beneath our feet right now, is going to be rough and we’ll need one another on it," said Ms. Pidduck at the end of her remarks. "We can choose community over chaos. We can choose to build trust, to build connection, to listen rather than to cut off. To ask questions, to seek help, to learn rather than to defend. Growth and change are, as I see it, acts of hope for our collective future."


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