Our Very Own Beloved Community at Gilbert Stuart Middle School

Many people say that Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream still hasn’t come true. Racism and inequality are still very much present in our world and in our own communities. We live in a world where socio-economic class and even race still determine the quality level of education for our children. This is often apparent at Gilbert Stuart Middle School, a school in Providence that is consistently ranked as one of the lowest performing in the district, and even the state. While Martin Luther King’s Jr.’s dream may not be fulfilled for these students, his ideas ring true and remain present in the minds of the Gilbert Stuart’s City Year team, faculty and staff.

Martin Luther King had big dreams. One of his dreams included the creation of “beloved communities”, a term that was coined by American philosopher Josiah Royce and brought to prominence by Dr. King. In these communities discrimination, bigotry, poverty and homelessness would be brought to an end by the embrace of human decency. People would come together and support each other regardless of race, gender or creed.

As a team, we set out to create our own Gilbert Stuart “Beloved Community”, not only to honor Martin Luther King Jr., but also to honor the children we work with every day. On Thursday, January 17th, we invited families, teachers, and students to our school for a potluck. With food donated and created from families and businesses all over the city — and even a Dougie-ing contest — the Gilbert Stuart community did nothing short of honor Dr. King’s vision.

The next day, students were invited to a showcase, again in honor of MLK and his vision. At the showcase, we brought in rappers, singers, dancers and poets from the community, who performed and delighted the students.  They whooped and whistled and positive energy rang through the room.

On Monday morning, for the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service held annually on the national holiday commemorating the life and work of Dr. King, the Gilbert Stuart team joined with AmeriCorps members from across Rhode Island for a discussion on Martin Luther King’s nonviolent philosophies and how we can apply them to our service. The morning exemplified yet another way we can work together to create beloved communities. After the dialogue, CYRI returned to Gilbert Stuart to paint Rhode Island college murals in our hallways as well as country murals and quote boards for the Teachers’ Lounge.  These murals serve to remind the students of the bright futures they have in front of them and well as the diversity of the places they come from.

We may, as a society, have a lot of work to do until we can make all of Martin Luther King’s dreams can come true. But at least at Gilbert Stuart Middle School we have helped build a beloved community that even Martin Luther King, Jr. would be proud to champion.

Thank you to Abby Schottenfels from the National Grid Team serving at Gilbert Stuart Middle School for contributing this month’s post.

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