On March 12, students and faculty at John Bapst Memorial High School will take part in Diversity Day, planned by the school’s Civil Rights Team. The day will open with a performance of “The Mask Messenger” by Faustwork Mask Theatre of Ontario, Canada. The Mask Messenger has been described as an engaging mix of monologue, physical comedy, and theater in a performance that explores the artistic, cultural, and psychological use of masks.
According to John Bapst Dean of Students and Civil Rights Team Advisor Colleen Grover, the opening performance will be followed by over 30 presentations by more than 60 community members who will share their stories surrounding issues of diversity. Students will attend their choice of four of the presentations, which will cover a range of topics including Indian Culture, Ethics in Journalism, Habitat for Humanity, Refugees in Maine, Human Rights for Workers Around the World, International Peace Initiatives, Multiculturalism, Seeds of Peace, and many others. The day will conclude with guest performer Brian McLellan of The Blacks and The Blues. Mr. McLellan presents an anti-prejudice message embedded within a collection of original Blues music of the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. Experienced in school presentations for all ages, he incorporates authentic instruments, props, and costumes to engage his audience and demonstrate that music can cross all cultures, races, religions, and backgrounds.
Mrs. Grover noted, “This is the Civil Rights Team’s fifth year at John Bapst. The program grew out of a desire to make respect for others more than just part of our mission but also part of our daily practice. From the first few years when Ethical Literacy was initially introduced to the entire John Bapst community, to recent years when the students themselves have initiated projects to help us better understand issues of civil rights, we’ve experienced amazing growth in the program.”
On Friday, January 30, the Civil Rights Team presented a student assembly to honor civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. While the student body filed in and took their seats in the Auditorium, Lindsey Brozyna ’09 and Anna Carmack ’10 presented a video they had created on the Civil Rights Movement. Opening remarks were then delivered by Omar Khan ’10. A second video was shown that contained a portion of Reverend King’s most famous speech, “I Have A Dream,” delivered on the steps of the Lincoln Monument at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963, where over 250,000 people had gathered to witness the historical event.
Just as folk music was an integral part of the March on Washington, with performers like Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, and Peter, Paul, and Mary, so, too, was it featured at the John Bapst tribute to King. Singer-guitarist Bruce Pratt performed three Civil Rights-era songs, inviting the students to sing along to I’ll Fly Away, We Shall Overcome, and If You Miss Me At the Back of the Bus. Currently a professor at the University of Maine, Mr. Pratt previously taught Drama, Journalism, and U.S. History at John Bapst. He has also previously coached the school’s football and skiing teams and has been coach of the John Bapst state championship track team for the past decade. Mr. Pratt has also been a singer, songwriter, and guitarist for many years and has published several short stories and a book of poetry.
Other projects hosted by the Civil Rights Team this year have included a “Jeans and T-Shirt Day” with proceeds given to the Shaw House and a Homecoming Week food drive to benefit Manna.