Identity Through Creative Expression

By Dr. Ed Castro, Interim EICL Coordinator

The third Monday, in January, is a federal holiday in observance of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s birthday. He was a towering figure in American history and much of the work he did with the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950’s & 60’s is as relevant today as it was in King’s day. As mentioned in the Insight post titled “Looking Back and Looking Forward”, I mention my approach to the winter season as a time of reflection and a time for community building. Both my thinking and teaching around equity and justice will be magnified first with connections to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, moving into Black History Month, and ending during Women’s History Month in March.

Typically, our January assembly highlight and showcases portions of the life and the good works of Dr. King, however, this is not a typical year, and we are not living through typical times. In our way, we paid our respects to his legacy by celebrating individual forms of expression and then using that creativity to add to our diverse community.

Our guest on January 11th and 12th, was Dr. Michael Nickens. He is the Director of Athletic Bands at George Mason University near Washington DC, where he is an associate professor of music and teachers’ classes in music composition and tuba performance. In his TEDx Talk, Music, identity, diversity, convergence”, he shared about how his own identity and how it is difficult to pin one’s identity down to a singular thing. As an active musician uses all of the parts of him to build a vibrant and diverse community. He is a shining example of the convergence of identity, creativity, and the various ways in which one can build a diverse community of people through shared actions and ideas.

I can think of no better way to honor the legacy of Dr. King, than continuing the work of community building with every tool available to us. Perhaps that means participating in a small actions like sitting and listening to a webinar about diversity, or taking a virtual tour of a local art gallery and checking out local artist like our own Ms. Balcomb. Big and small, artistic opportunities like those of Dr. Nickens are all around us, we just need to be brave and willing to receive artist expression or even share of ourselves to build community.

To learn more about Dr. Nickens and some of the work he does in his community, check the video and article links below.