University of Baltimore President Kurt Schmoke was the keynote speaker at Gilman's annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Convocation on January 11. Schmoke offered a wide-ranging and Baltimore-centric perspective on Dr. King's influence on American culture, policy, and politics, stressing the importance of voting rights. His perspective comes from a life well lived. He recalled his attendance at the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom as a 13-year-old, where he heard Dr. King's famous "I Have a Dream" speech. President Schmoke was introduced by Black Student Union Co-chair Purnell Hill '18.
Schmoke has devoted his career to public service on a local and national level, serving as assistant director of the White House Domestic Policy Staff under President Jimmy Carter and becoming the first elected black mayor of Baltimore, an office he held for 12 years. Prior to joining UB, he served in various capacities at Howard University. As a practicing lawyer and a partner in the firm Wilmer, Cutler and Pickering, he served as chair of the American Bar Association's Council on Racial and Ethnic Justice.
The Convocation started with a welcome from Director of Community and Diversity Johnnie Foreman and an invocation by Julian Arrington '18. Headmaster Henry P. A. Smyth also addressed the school, as did a group of fifth grade students. They explained how a student-selected Topic Tuesday discussion about discrimination spurred them to create a shared journal to "express [their] feelings about racism without judgment," which is now an ongoing project. Speeches were interspersed with uplifting performances by the Traveling Men, Middle and Upper School Strings, Jazz Group, the Fifth Grade Chorus, Middlemen, and US Glee Club.
Since the Convocation opened with the singing of the National Anthem, it was fitting to end with "Lift Every Voice and Sing," which is commonly referred to as the Black National Anthem. Prior to the song, Kindergarten Teacher Rakiya Brown took the stage to explain its significance and history. Johnnie Forman closed the Convocation with a twist on the traditional benediction, kicking off a rousing performance that is better experienced than described, with several flash mobs popping up from the audience and a commanding solo by Foreman Fellow Jibri McLean '13. Don't miss this video!