Students March to Sparks to Celebrate MLK, Jr.

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Milana Sharipova, Staff

For the first time in two years, the student body had its first assembly to honor Martin Luther King, Jr. Jan. 14 at Spark Stadium during Homeroom. 

Assistant principal Cassie Ridenour says the idea for the assembly really came from the students. 

“Initially, I was tasked as the administrator in charge of the MLK assembly. But then I was speaking with the BSU, the Black Student Union, and I just expressed to them that it seemed odd to me that I, as a white administrator, was the person planning the assembly. I asked them if they would be willing to take that on,” Ridenour said. 

Ridenour says the group enthusiastically said yes, they wanted to do this.   

“The idea to march to Sparks was just thrown out,” Ridenour said. “Like wouldn’t that be cool, but no, no way are they going to let us do that.” 

Ridenour says when the idea came up right before Winter Break, she thought, “I’ll just ask.” 

The significance of this event being the first school assembly in two years centered around a movement, Ridenour says, was an important aspect of the event. 

 “[The assembly was] going to be around a movement that was asking our nation to come together,” Ridenour said. “And we’re going to be able to come together around that. And I think that was important for the students planning it.” 

Ridenour says that the march outdoors, and the fact that the assembly was held outdoors at Sparks, was the only way the whole school was going to be able to come together instead of doing a virtual assembly. 

I’m sure at least a chunk of our student population knows about the Kalles MLK March,” Ridenour said. “I taught at Kalles for four years before I became an administrator at PHS. And I always loved doing the MLK March. So, to be able to sort of bring that idea up here.” 

The idea of an outdoor school assembly doesn’t have to be restricted to just during COVID, Ridenour says.  

“I would like us to continue that tradition and make this an annual event,” Ridenour said. 

Ridenour says she wanted this assembly to make every student feel welcome and safe and hopes that the student body will recognize that this is an opportunity to learn and become better versions of ourselves. 

“I am hoping that the students are open to the message of the student speakers,” Ridenour said. “They’ve put a lot of heart into it; I think they’re really pushing on some sense of normalcy that we have.” 

The message of the assembly, Ridenour says, is important for all students to hear, especially in Puyallup. 

Ridenour says the speakers at the assembly, senior Bernard Ngere, sophomore Rhyann Atwood and junior Anayia Walden, were chosen to speak at the assembly as members of the Black Student Union. 

“All three of them have strong voices in terms of them independently advocating amongst their friends and classmates on making good choices about race relations. And I am really excited to give them the opportunity to have a broader audience and hand them a microphone,” Ridenour said. 

Junior Anayia Walden says it was empowering to be speaking in front of the school for many reasons. 

Not only for the first time in two years, but also over something as big as MLK and equal rights and justice. It was important for me because as a student of color at PHS I am constantly hearing and seeing too much discrimination against all minorities, and I believe that if we were to truly work together as a community, we could change some of these issues,” Walden said.