What MLK Day Means to Our Students

In honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, we asked members of our Student Advisory Council to reflect on what this day means to them. Their responses touch on a wide range of issues—from leadership and the Black Lives Matter movement, to the civil rights movement and America’s future—and reveal how today’s youth view our country’s progress on combating racism.

NYC Student Advisory Council

Student Advisory Council members (clockwise from top left): Dhoryan Rodriguez, Angelina Arias, Tresor Jackson, Zaire Wilson, and Talitha-Cumi Mason

Tresor Jackson
12th grade
Young Women’s Leadership School, Brooklyn, NY

It’s important to observe MLK day because you’re acknowledging a racial group and the history of the struggle they had to go through. It’s not just that you’re celebrating one man, you’re trying to reach out and understand a minority. I feel Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his fight for civil rights was a real turning point in history, not just for African-Americans/black people but for everyone, because it showed a race will fight for what they want and not just sit back and be walked over. America has made a little progress, but not enough because of all the issues we have with racism and discrimination.

Zaire Wilson
11th grade
Bronx Leadership Academy II, Bronx, NY MLK Day is a day to celebrate the fight for freedom and equality for people of color, giving them a platform and a voice, and bringing strength to a race. Our nation has turned their backs on people who are disenfranchised. MLK Day is a day to show love and thanks to a man of color who fought against a nation in order to end separation and bring everyone together as a whole.

Angelina Aria
11th grade
Bronx High School of Law and Community Service, Bronx, NY

MLK Day is a reminder to me. It shows just how far American society has come, but also how much further we need to go. While minorities and people who have faced discrimination have gotten more rights, things are still not as good as they could be. Despite gay marriage being legalized, members of the LGBTQ+ community are mocked and hated by many people, as they’re beaten and called derogatory words. Despite the freedom for African Americans and the destruction of segregation, many black people continue to live in fear, just from seeing a cop car go by. Despite women earning the right to vote, they’re still treated unfairly by their communities and even their own families to preserve “tradition.”

Equality is not fully implemented in America. Not many fight for these causes, and those that do are invisible because the media doesn’t consider them important. I can see this in my life and the lives of my peers, and I am fighting against that. I believe everyone should have access to the same opportunities regardless of their gender, race, sexual orientation, or religion.

MLK serves as a reminder of what I’m fighting for: a better and more fair America, and I won’t stop until I accomplish that goal.

Dhoryan Rodriguez
12th grade
Academy for Software Engineering, New York, NY

Without MLK and his movement, we would not be where we are now and I wouldn’t have most of the friends I have now. Out of 100 percent, America has made maybe 20 percent progress and that all went backwards when our current president assumed the title. People are way more comfortable making racial remarks now than they were two years ago.

Talitha-Cumi Mason
12th grade
Frederick Douglass Academy II, New York, NY

Today I feel as though race, equality, and justice means very little to a lot of people. There are too many cases in which people get away with killing someone who is innocent. I don’t think there is any remorse for what they do and it just feels like MLK Day doesn’t mean anything to them. I also think that we are fighting for a lot of rights that we shouldn’t have to for. For example, Black Lives Matter. We shouldn’t have to protest for someone who is black to have rights when MLK already gave a speech on their rights and did so much for the people.