Maplewood Schools / Kids South Orange

800 Students, 1 Message of Peace — Maplewood MS Holds Annual MLK Silent Peace March

Friday, January 25 brought the mildest weather in memory for Maplewood Middle School’s annual remembrance of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. which usually has students braving frigid temperatures to share their message of peace.

This year marked the 19th time that MMS has organized the Michele Turner Martin Luther King Jr. Silent Peace March. This year’s march, originally scheduled for January 18, had been postponed due to a delayed school opening.

The march entails all students and staff from Maplewood Middle School (approx. 800 people) processing in silence from the doors of MMS through Maplewood Village and back. Students carry signs that they have fashioned themselves with messages of peace and equality.

The event was started by Maplewood Middle School sixth grade teacher Richard Palmgren as a way to have students reflect upon the life and work of King — “a man who was committed to fighting nonviolently for equality and peace.” Several years ago, Palmgren explained to Village Green, “Initiated in January 2001, the MLK Silent Peace March is designed to both replicate the marches for equality of the 1960s and to make a profound statement that the fight for equality is still not over. The silence of 800 middle schoolers marching through Maplewood Village makes a very ‘loud’ statement about Dr. King’s dream of unity and equality.”

In 2011, the march was renamed in honor of Michele Turner, a paraprofessional who worked at MMS for many years. Turner passed away in September 2010.

An email from the school explained the significance of the annual event:

The March is in recognition of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s life and achievements. This unique silent march should help people reflect upon a man who was committed to fighting nonviolently for equality and peace. His vision of America is indeed responsible for the diversity we so richly enjoy in the Maplewood community and school. We are not only honoring the man, but his message as well.

Photos by Sara Knutsen:

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