Teaching Middle Schoolers about MLK

Mandy Carter talking to students

Since Arthur Morgan School is a boarding school, our schedule works a little different.  While most students stay home on Martin Luther King Jr. day, our students already live on campus. We don’t feel it makes sense to celebrate King’s life and work by being apart in a our separate boarding houses. Instead, we come together as a community and honor King’s achievements by learning and growing in our acceptance of each other’s individuality.

Introducing Mandy Carter

This past MLK Day, Mandy Carter came to AMS to speak with students and staff about her experiences as a community organizer.  Carter is a Southern African-American lesbian activist with a 52-year movement history of social, racial and LGBTQ justice organizing since 1967.  Here is her story:

Mandy Carter at anniversary of Selma Bridge March“Raised in two orphanages and a foster home for her first 18 years as a ward of the state of New York, Ms. Carter attributes the influences of the Quaker-based American Friends Service Committee, the former Institute for the Study and Practice of Nonviolence, and the pacifist-based War Resisters League for her sustained multi-racial and multi-issue organizing.  

It was specifically her participation in the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. inspired 1968 Poor People’s Campaign organized by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) that solidified her sustained commitment to nonviolence. The Poor People’s Campaign was the last project Dr. King was working on before his assassination in Memphis, TN on April 4, 1968.  She participated in the 2018 Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival marking its 50th anniversary 1968-2018.

Ms. Carter helped co-found two ground breaking organizations.  Southerners On New Ground (SONG) and the National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC).   SONG, founded in 1993, is about building progressive movement across the South by creating transformative models of organizing that connects race, class, culture, gender, sexual orientation and gender identity. Specifically, SONG integrates work against homophobia into freedom struggles in the South. She served as its Executive Director from 2003-2005.

Carter’s Continued Work

In recent years,  Carter continued her work by helping organize the 50th anniversary of the 1965 Selma-To-Montgomery Voting Rights Marchand coordinating the the Bayard Rustin Commemoration Project of the NBJC.  She was co-chairs of Obama LGBT Pride and was a former member of the Democratic National Committee’s Black Caucus and LGBT Caucus.

middle schoolers coloring MLK signCarter spoke with our students about her work.  Through stories and discussion, she encouraged them to follow their passions and recognize that any type of work can be used as instrument for positive change. “It was really inspiring to hear about all the work she’s done,” says Jibril an eighth grader.

Carter spent the whole day at AMS attending several classes and also leading an after school activity for the students. Her initial invitation came as part of the Queer Culture and History field trip class syllabus.  It worked out that she could come on MLK Day and help us celebrate King’s work and talk to all the work that still needs to be done.

-by Nicholas Maldonado