Since 2011, the St. Paul's Upper School has held an annual King's Vision Day Film Festival, with students and faculty viewing and discussing films that explore values espoused by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in his fight for freedom, justice and understanding.
This year's festival featured a record 21 films, ranging from big budget Hollywood productions and popular independent productions to foreign films and an ESPN documentary, but the real stars might have been the pair of speakers who started the day with special talks in morning assembly before the screenings.
Jason Caldwell '05 captivated the audience as he traced his life's journey from an underprivileged Baltimore neighborhood, to Fordham University, to his work today with one of the top 10 asset management firms on Wall Street. For Caldwell, that journey started with the opportunity to attend St. Paul's.
"It was like I had to be two people. A St. Paul's gentleman wearing a coat and tie when I was at school, and someone else when I was at home in east Baltimore," he said. "I want to help others learn – like I did – that they can be anything they want to be."
Read an interview with Jason Caldwell and his mother, written by Tony Araviakis '16 in St. Paul's student newspaper, The Page.
Mr. Caldwell was preceded by Upper School Spanish teacher Simon Ponce, who recounted the struggles he faced in living his American dream of attaining U.S. citizenship as a Venezuelan immigrant in the wake of 9/11.After almost 14 years, Sr. Ponce's dream became a reality, but he noted there is still much work to be done to achieve equality for all Americans.
"This country is special because we are still allowed to dream like Martin Luther King, Jr., did about a place where all children, regardless of color or heft of bank accounts are considered equal in potential and opportunity," he said. "This is a great place because of places like St. Paul's, welcoming communities that work tirelessly to keep the dream alive ...we challenge the American Dream, not because we don't believe in it, or because we are trying to tear it down. We challenge the idea of the dream, not because it's impossible to achieve, but because we know we have the task upon us to defer it no longer and make it a reality for all."
After the assembly, students dispersed for the film screenings. Each selection was nominated by student sponsor for the film's ability to generate meaningful reflection on the human condition in a colorful, thought-provoking and engaging manner. Each Upper School student chose a film to watch and discuss in a small classroom "theater" hosted by a member of the faculty and led by the film's student sponsor.
Lunch included an Ice Cream Social in conjunction with SPSG. The delicious ice cream was provided by Taharka Brothers, a Baltimore-based community social enterprise that uses its products and business initiatives to champion the fight for cultural understanding, economic and social justice, and civic involvement.
After lunch, students returned to their classroom "theaters" for small group discussions, and the day closed with a series of "Open Mike" reflections in the Chapel.
For student perspective on the King's Vision Day Film Festival, read the article in The Page by Austin Burt '15.