Dwight Morrow High School rededicates south building in honor of civil rights leader

Stephanie Noda, Northern Valley Suburbanite

ENGLEWOOD — Students, staff and community members celebrated the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on Jan. 15 as they rededicated Dwight Morrow High School's south building as the Martin Luther King, Jr. Hall.

High school students celebrated King's life by singing a rendition of John Lennon's "Imagine" and students from John Grieco Elementary School presented a dance performance of the civil rights anthem "We Shall Overcome."

"We need to understand Dr. King's words again today right here in Englewood," said Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle, D-Englewood, one of the officials who spoke at the event. "We need to have peace, non-violence and really this generation needs to follow his dream." 

The school district received a letter from the office of First Lady of the United States Michelle Obama that sent "best wishes" to Dwight Morrow High School in addition to proclamations from local officials congratulating the school for the rededication.

The south building was originally designated as Martin Luther King Jr. Hall in 1969 by the Board of Education, but a sign was never installed on the building to reflect its name.

The sign, when installed, will be located on the far left of the entrance of the building. Principal Peter Elbert said while they have not yet received the sign, the school wanted to hold the ceremony as a way of celebrating King's life on his birthday, which falls on Jan. 15.

"Why are we doing this? Because at a time when our nation is still struggling with violence targeting groups of people, we need to reflect on Dr. King's message: 'Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend,'" said Elbert.

Stephanie Harper, a teacher at the EAGLE Program, the district's alternative high school, reflected on what Dwight Morrow High School was like when the building was first dedicated as King Hall.

"The building was dedicated 45 years ago and yet all of the alumni still carry the same pride and love of this, our alma mater," said Harper. "Once a Maroon Raider, always a Maroon Raider." 

Similar to how couples renew their wedding vows, Elbert said students should take this opportunity "to reaffirm our commitment to the ideals and goals that Dr. King shared with us."

"For young people today who hear the message in their TV shows and music videos that 'it's all about me,' Dr. King's words need to be heard amidst the noise," said Elbert.