Their school isn’t at risk of closure, but students from Brooklyn’s P.S. 261 still spent the morning protesting.
To commemorate Martin Luther King Day, for which schools will be closed on Monday, P.S. 261 students marched from their Boerum Hill school to Brooklyn Borough Hall, carrying placards calling for peace and singing protest songs such as “We Shall Not Be Moved.”
Now in its third year, the annual event is the culmination of several weeks of intensive study about the civil rights leader Martin Luther King. The march, meant to reenact the 1963 March on Washington at which King delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech, was originally the brainchild of Kim Wiley-Schwartz, a P.S. 261 parent who works for the Livable Streets Initiative, which like GothamSchools was incubated by The Open Planning Project.
Today, students sang protest songs, heard a brief speech by Borough President Marty Markowitz, and delivered portions of King’s speech and Barack Obama’s speech about race, delivered during the summer of 2008 when he was campaigning for president.
Asked how long they had been preparing for the march, one third-grader answered, “We’ve been getting ready since first grade.”
In the past, the march provided a welcome counterbalance to preparation for January’s state reading tests, said Principal Zipporiah Mills. But now that the tests have been moved later in the spring, teachers could spend even more time on the history of the civil rights movement, she said.