Organizations and institutions in Philadelphia — and, indeed, around the country — have had to radically redesign the ways they mark Martin Luther King, Jr. Day this year.
At Germantown Friends School, staff worked with students to design a complete itinerary with a combination of service opportunities and virtual workshops about race.
“We’re finding ways to continue to support our community partners as best we can,” said Zarah Adams, the school’s director of community engagement, “supporting the enthusiasm of our students and our parents to help our neighbors, but do it in a way that is safe for everyone.”
Germantown Friends has participated in the MLK Day of Service since its inception in 1996, and the school normally draws hundreds of volunteers for the event.
Currently, students in pre-K through 5th grade at Germantown Friends School are attending in-person classes, while those in middle and high school are learning remotely.
For the face-to-face instruction, the children are kept in cohorts, so the online MLK Day programming will allow them to interact with more people, including students from other classes, Michelle Sonsino, the school’s director of communications, said.
Adams said Monday’s activities were designed to engage the whole family, from the youngest learners to the parents of high schoolers.
There will be “drive up and drop off” opportunities, Adams said, with families donating clothes, food and toiletry kits to Face to Face Germantown and Cradles to Crayons.
In addition, students will lead a baking workshop, and their finished product will be delivered to the Germantown Community Fridge.
“MLK Day came out of a need to address the pressing issues of the communities, things going on in the nation at the time,” Adams said.
“Right now, we’re in the midst of a pandemic, and so the theme for our day is Social Justice in the Midst of a Pandemic,” she added.
On that theme, there will be several virtual talks about racial disparities in regards to healthcare and COVID-19, including a keynote speech from Dr. Aletha Akers, vice president of research at the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive health research organization.
In another workshop, Dr. Daniel Taylor, a Drexel University professor who also works at St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children, will be discussing his participation in a study that led to him perceiving his own racial bias.
Other highlights include a cooking class with the Bynum family, owners of South and Warmdaddy’s, and a session on Bayard Rustin, a gay Civil Right organizer from West Chester and close adviser to King.
Germantown Friends School has also compiled a list of documentaries and TED Talks for families to watch in the afternoon.
“The driving forces for the day were to make sure that, even though we couldn’t be together in-person, that we still fulfilled the purpose of MLK Day,” Adams said.