Continuing the dream

January 21, 2022

Matthew Rivera.

While many school districts close on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Cheshire Academy dedicates the day to honor and remember the reverend with special programming, including hosting esteemed guests and student-led discussions. The annual tradition dates back to 1990, when students at the time held a peaceful sit-in protest to show the administration that they wanted to better honor King. The protest served as the catalyst for the annual event on campus.

This year’s program, held on Jan. 17, was themed “Exploring the Scope and the Meaning of the Civil Rights Movement,” with the goal being to increase awareness of the range of inequities challenged by the American civil rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s and now, and for the community to reflect on the personal significance of those issues.

Leading the discussion was keynote speaker Matthew Rivera, executive director of The Dream Support Network. Rivera boasts an impressive resume highlighting his journey of service, which began in 2016 when he enrolled at Trinity College. Rivera has served as co-president of the Men of Color Alliance at Trinity, and works as a mentor for BSL Educational Foundation’s Alpha Beautillion program, among other roles.

Shawniel Chamanlal.

Introducing Rivera was Head of School Julie Anderson and Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Tanasia Lea ’09.

Alexandria Blaurock.

As part of his keynote address, held remotely from the Union Baptist Church of Hartford, Rivera reflected on the history of Martin Luther King Jr., including his upbringing, and his growth and impact on the world leading up to and after his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. He told the CA community that MLK Jr. Day is not just about remembrance, but about continuing the work that King and other civil rights activists started.

“On a day like today, although it is important to revisit history, I want us to be motivated to continue this work,” Rivera said. “I want us to feel empowered by the lessons that this movement teaches us, and not just be guilty or sad about what happened, because that’s what Dr. King lived for and not just died for.”

Student-led musical performances preceded and closed out Rivera’s address. Afterward, workshops led by Adrienne Kenton, mother, citizen, producer, and screenwriter; Shawniel Chamanlal, founder of and licensed clinical social worker at Healing Springs Wellness Center; Alexandria Blaurock, licensed professional counselor associate at Healing Springs; and Black Student Union president Temilade Onile ’22 and member Isaiah Riley ’23 were held.