Newton High School kicked off its Black History Month celebrations by hosting Isaac Newton Farris Jr., the nephew of civil rights icon Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
In his speech, Change Has Come to America, Farris, president and CEO of The King Center, challenged students to learn more about how the power of non-violence can create lasting change in their communities.
"Indeed, the study and the practice of non-violent social change and conflict resolution may prove to be the most important and enduring aspect of the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.," Farris said.
Newton High School principal Roderick Sams said he hopes hosting notable members of the community such as Farris will resonate with the students in his school and make an impression on their lives.
"I think anytime you can give students an opportunity to listen to anyone who brings a message of unity, a message of non violence, a message of tranquility, it’s always going to be positive. We’re always going to provide them an opportunity to hear that. They don’t get that enough," said Sams.
Farris used the recent death of Newton High School student Terrance Dorsey to drive home to students his message of non-violence. Dorsey was killed Sunday after he was accidently shot in the back while riding in a car with several teens.
"I know that you all have suffered a loss here this weekend of a great friend, and that’s a sad thing. But we have to face one reality. And I know this is hard for some people. But the reality is that a young man would be alive today had his friend not had a gun," said Farris.
Sams said in was appropriate for Farris to use his time at the podium to encourage the students because so many are still grappling with Dorsey’s death.
"Many of the students in this room are still grieving and still mourning the loss of their friend and their classmate and their schoolmate. But it did send a message that violence only begets violence. When you put yourselves in those kinds of situations, this is sometimes the unfortunate result. And I think he did that in a very appropriate way.
Senior class president Jherricka Henderson, who introduced Farris, she said it was a great honor for her to participate in the program and thinks it’s important for schools to host these types of programs for students.
"It’s very beneficial for those who do not have support at home. So if they’re able to get that support from leaders who come here, such as Mr. Farris, they can improve, not only their homes, but also their communities," Henderson said.