Temperatures barely hit 5 degrees on Monday, but that didn’t deter students and teachers from bundling up to listen to speeches about inequality.
A highlight of the Jackson Hole Community School’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day march on Town Square were comments made by Jackson’s new mayor, Pete Muldoon.
“We recognize the importance of equality for all humans,” Muldoon said. “But we must realize we haven’t achieved that in this country or in this state.”
He pointed out that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 took place only eight years before he was born, and that the country still has a long way to go.
“We refuse to face widespread racism in our society,” Muldoon said.
His message for the students? They have a responsibility to face inequality entrenched by previous generations.
“I hope all of you are up to that challenge,” Muldoon said.
Local activist Sarah Ross, who recently helped found the Wyoming chapter of Showing Up For Racial Justice, and Teton County Library’s Assistant Director Isabel Zumel also spoke to the students.
Ross told students they “can’t afford to be complacent” and talked about how people in need can be hidden in plain sight.
“We don’t see them in our textbooks,” she said.
Zumel told students that “prejudice is rooted in fear” — but that they have a choice: Retreat or face it. She mentioned a lot of pain in the community: food insecurity and lack of adequate shelter.
“We are at a crossroads,” Zumel said.
After listening to Muldoon, Zumel and Ross speak, students said they believe there is a lot of work to be done.
Student body president Cecilia Williams, acknowledged how lucky she was not to know discrimination firsthand.
“If I’m not the definition of privilege, I don’t know what is,” she said.
Senior Ryan Hutton and junior Aaron Scher also addressed their classmates.
Teachers said they were proud to work for a school that emphasizes active learning opportunities.
Spanish teacher Roxana Wortman said the march demonstrated “something we don’t really have a chance to teach on a daily basis.”
Wortman hopes that engaging in activism will show students they, too, can change society — as the sign Wortman carried said in both English and Spanish.
“Instead of taking the day off, we’re learning by stepping out,” history teacher Cheryl Katz said. “I like that we do this, it’s a better way to celebrate the day.”
“It’s definitely unique,” English teacher David Baczko said. “It highlights what our school values.”
Baczko said the Community School is the only school he’s worked for that’s done something like this MLK Day.
Nina McConigley, an English professor at the University of Wyoming, came to Jackson to speak with students. Born in Singapore but raised in Wyoming, McConigley planned to talk to the students about “what it’s like being different, being of color, in Wyoming.”
“For me, it’s about teaching empathy,” she said. McConigley described her class, and perspective, as a “dose of diversity.”
To close out the march students read off “I believe” statements — believing in hope and confidence for the future, believing in the right to access education regardless of gender, religion or race, and believing in the power of laughter.
“It’s all about fighting the power, challenging the system and disrupting the status quo,” junior Jackson Pond said after the march.
The way students hope to do that? As a team.
“We are one community,” Williams told the crowd. “And that should not be forgotten.”