Celebrating the memory of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The Sacred Heart Greenwich community gathered January 18 for the annual Martin Luther King, Jr. (MLK) Day prayer service to reflect upon the life of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. with featured performances from the Vision Steppers dance group and GospelKnights choir, students, families, and faculty came together in memory of Dr. King’s legacy.  Student speakers, singers, and filmmakers also contributed to the prayer service, advocating to continue standing up to injustice as Dr. King did.

Yvestlana Lafontant ’21 reading during the prayer service.  Courtesy of Ms. Rachel Zurheide

Upper School students contributed to the service, including seniors Nia Foster and Ludnie Rene, juniors Avery McCloskey, Gabby DiBiase, Kellie Ulmer, and Zada Brown, sophomores Sarah Mickley, Yvestlana Lafontant, and freshmen Kayla Malcolm-Joseph and Isabella Stewart.  The students shared reflections, poems, prayers,  and songs about standing up to injustice and promoting equality.  Faculty and staff members who contributed include Upper School History Teacher Mr. Matthew Meyer, Lower School Assistant Teacher Mr. Brendan Garnett, and the Director of The Fund for Sacred Heart Ms. Deborah Doornick.

Ludnie spoke about the many ways she uses her voice in her community to advocate for herself and others.  Zada shared her artistic talent with the audience, performing a solo of the song “Lift Every Voice and Sing” by Mr. J. Rosamond Johnson and Mr. James Weldon Johnson.  Zada’s rendition of the song and Ludnie’s speech earned each of them a standing ovation.

“I wanted to sing a song that really represented the theme of voice, and this song felt perfect as it is an ‘anthem’ of sorts,” Zada said.  “This song has beautiful and powerful lyrics, and I could think of no better way to share my dream and vision for our school and our world than through my favorite artistic expression, music.”

The Vision Steppers are a gospel step team from the Immaculate Conception School in the Bronx, New York, led by Director and Founder Mr. Dabe James, according to visionsteppers.org.  The group has been performing at Sacred Heart’s MLK prayer service for more than ten years.  The team started with seven members in 2004 and had grown to an award-winning team of 60 dancers.

Each year, Mr. James works to get students involved in the prayer service by offering an opportunity for seniors to step along with the Vision Steppers.  Twice in the week leading up to the service, he came to Sacred Heart to teach interested seniors a step routine to perform.   

The GospelKnights choir performing in the annual MLK Day prayer service.  Courtesy of Ms. Rachel Zurheide

“Without a doubt, my favorite thing about coming to Sacred Heart Greenwich is the students,” Mr. James said.  “It is always an unparalleled pleasure, as they are supportive, encouraging, and fun.  I also love the actual service.  It is truly our favorite [prayer service] of the year, and one of our favorite ministry opportunities of the year.”

Alongside the Vision Steppers, the GospelKnights choir from Concordia College in Bronxville, New York performed.  The choir works to promote social integration between teachers, parents, and students through a variety of activities including dance, song, and fashionable expression, according to gospelchoirs.com.

Sacred Heart’s Upper School choir, the Madrigals, joined the GospelKnights and the Vision Steppers in performances during the prayer service.  Ms. Annette Etheridge, Middle and Upper School Music Teacher and Upper School Music Director, led the Madrigals in preparation for the event.  Ms. Etheridge explained how the high-energy during the prayer service emphasizes Dr. King’s strong message and legacy.

“The energy and love of music being shared during such an important event are very rewarding,” said Ms. Etheridge.  “Everyone seems to really enjoy the prayer service so it makes being a part of the service exciting.”

The Madrigals singing alongside the GospelKnights at prayer service.  Courtesy of Ms. Rachel Zurheide

In addition to songs and speeches, sophomores Mary O’Connor and Sofia Pye and junior Olivia Andrews contributed a video montage of members of the Sacred Heart community reciting Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech.  Mary appreciated the opportunity to participate in the prayer service and felt that the experience deepened her appreciation for the holiday.

“I chose to participate because it was a good way to get involved and promote diversity in our community.  Diversity has always been important to me, and I enjoy filmmaking, so this seemed like a perfect fit for me,” Mary said.  “Watching today’s youth discuss topics of the past and their relevance was very interesting and thought-provoking.  Doing this video made me want to work on other diversity-related topics in our community in the future.”

Featured Image by Sofia Pye ’21