Weekend of Events Celebrates Dr. Martin Luther King’s Legacy

Will Kasso and Kayla Lichtman ’21 painted an image of Rosa Parks with other students at Middlebury Union Middle School on Tues., Jan. 16.

Will Kasso and Kayla Lichtman ’21 painted an image of Rosa Parks with other students at Middlebury Union Middle School on Tues., Jan. 16.



Will Kasso and Kayla Lichtman ’21 painted an image of Rosa Parks with other students at Middlebury Union Middle School on Tues., Jan. 16.


The Middlebury community came together early this week to celebrate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King. The events spanned three days. A Sunday talk was followed by a Monday breakfast, then by a mural painting project on Tuesday. The Alliance for an Inclusive Middlebury, the Scott Center for Spiritual and Religious Life, the Center for Community Engagement (CCE), the Commons, and the Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs organized the events.

The first event was a talk titled “Meditation vs. Detention: Empowering Youth with Mindfulness.” (See Page A4) Ali Smith, Atman Smith and Andy Gonzalez, founders of the Holistic Life Foundation, delivered the talk. Their nonprofit is a Baltimore-based organization which helps children develop through yoga, mindfulness and self-care.

The three founders explained that after attending college together, they moved to Baltimore, where they began teaching yoga to middle school students after school for free. The neighborhood they lived in at the time was one of the more violent in the city. As the program developed, the organization “started picking up less and less kids at detention,” said Gonzalez. They also noticed they were breaking up less fights. “We started changing dialogue in community,” Atman added.

Their program began attracting more participants, and even trained some to become yoga instructors themselves. The program initially served 150 students per week, but now serves over 10,000 students per week. 

“[The Holistic Life Foundation] provided an alternative way of relating to these kids and it changed their behavior, which is just an incredible concept,” said associate chaplain Rabbi Danielle Stillman, who was one of the coordinators of the talk.

In reaction to the presentation, Mikayla Hyman ’20 said that “they had a lot of love, and that’s really what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was based on.” Using the founders of the Holistic Life Foundation as an example, Hyman added, “There’s so much people can do for social change but they don’t often think of themselves as instigators.” 

Students, faculty and other members of the Middlebury community gathered in Atwater dining hall on Monday morning to discuss how to create what Dr. King called a “beloved community” here at Middlebury. 

Will Nash, professor of American studies, explained that a “beloved community is grounded in the principles of nonviolence and the idea that power is not the most important thing.” Nash then prompted each table to discuss how Middlebury could work toward achieving such a community. 

Many students and administrators discussed this question in light of the divisive events that have affected the campus during the past year. At one table, discussion centered around the idea that many micro-communities exist within the larger Middlebury community, making it difficult to feel connected as an entire school. Another table considered if “community is a given” and whether or not “inhabiting the same place makes us a community.” 

Dean of spiritual and religious life Mark Orten said we must build a “beloved” community “as we might define it, by means that are present to us now.” He added, “The President’s support for initiatives like Restorative Practices and Mindfulness, as well as events facilitating dialogic processes around inclusivity and free speech, engaged in by many members of this community, are starting to form hopeful sinews.”

Middlebury College students and middle schoolers gathered at Middlebury Union Middle School on Tuesday to paint a community mural honoring Dr. King and the civil rights movement. Artist and visiting winter term professor Will Kasso guided the painting of the mural. Near the school entrance, Rosa Parks is now depicted sitting bravely in her bus seat, surrounded by words like “bold,” “dream” and “impact.”

“That one act of her not getting up made everybody stand up for themselves,” said Kasso. He went on to explain his belief that a community mural acts as an especially good medium for bringing people together and starting a dialogue. “Art should always remain fun,” said Kasso.

Many of the students at the mural painting were in of Kasso’s winter term class, Origins and Politics of Graffiti. Vishawn Greene ’21 added that the mural was a nice way to “cement [Park’s] legacy.” Alejandra Chavez ’19 spoke to its potential to “leave a little mark, as we all hope to do.”

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Weekend of Events Celebrates Dr. Martin Luther King’s Legacy