Thanks to scholar, activist and minister Nyle Fort, who spoke to Morristown-Beard School students via Zoom as part of the annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Assembly on Friday, January 15.
Nyle Fort has worked in education, criminal justice, and youth development for over a decade in various capacities including the National Director of Communities Against Militarized Police; Founder and Co-Director of the Organizing Praxis Lab at Princeton University; and lead trainer at Momentum, an activist incubator that builds large-scale social movements in the United States and around the world. At Princeton University, he is a joint Ph.D. candidate in religion and interdisciplinary humanities with a concentration in African American studies.
In his presentation, Mr. Fort spoke about growing up in Newark, where his mother frequently told bedtime stories to his brother and himself to help inspire them. “In my mother’s stories, we were leaders in a land where everyone was free,” said Mr. Fort. “Stories matter. They say something about who we are and who we can become. They tell us what is possible.”
At the same time, he said that the story of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. has become an oversimplification — “a lullaby intended to keep us asleep.”
“For us to complete – and not just commemorate – Dr. King’s dream, we must break free from the same old story we’ve been telling ourselves. We must let go of comforting lies.”
To make progress and affect change, Mr. Fort said that we must be willing to address uncomfortable truths about issues including institutional racism and social inequality. He concluded his presentation by asking the students to consider their own legacy and the ways they can do more as citizens of the world.
In a Q&A session with students, Mr. Fort answered questions about ways to build affinity groups, how to get past politics and engage in a productive dialogue, and the importance of social justice movements.
“We’ve seen a lot of progress around certain social justice issues in the past few years,” he told the students. “Your generation has a remarkable opportunity to push it forward even more.”