In the fall, the Nesto Gallery exhibited “I Need ___ To Breathe” as a 150-foot outdoor fence installed in front of the Kellner Performing Arts Center. (also inside in the Arts Commons Gallery). “I Need ___ To Breathe” was an interactive portrait project created by photography teacher Scott Nobles, in collaboration with three Advanced Photography students—THEA CHUNG ’21, LAUREN WALKER ‘21, and MADDIE WEILER ‘21; and assistance from SEBASTIAN PARK ‘21 with computer programming.
Photographic portraits and audio recordings of more than 250 participants were captured at multiple Black Lives Matter events, rallies, protests, and vigils throughout the summer of 2020. Along the fence were QR codes that viewers could scan with their smartphones to listen to the important and meaningful voices of the individual participants as they completed the statement
“I need ___ to breathe.” The images featured inside the Arts Commons Gallery highlighted the portraits of those participants who were from the Milton Academy community.
Award-winning author and investigative journalist PATRICK RADDEN KEEFE ’94 spoke with students and alumni about his work, particularly his New York Times best seller Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland, as part of the Milton in the World webinar series.
Radden Keefe said he knew when he was a Milton student that he wanted to be a writer, but it took many years of rejection letters before he began writing professionally. Today, he is a staff writer at The New Yorker, producing long-form pieces that dive deep into a range of subjects, “from the hunt for the drug lord Chapo Guzman to the tragic personal history of the mass shooter Amy Bishop and the role that the Sackler family and their company Purdue Pharma played in sparking the opioid crisis.”
He looks for topics that have a “strong narrative spine,” he said. “I want it to be a story about people, often people in conflict. It’s through that lens that I approach the bigger issues.”
Obituaries are often a source for his ideas, said Radden Keefe. The concept for Say Nothing came after he read an obituary of Dolours Price, a key figure in the book, which chronicles life in Northern Ireland during the Troubles.
Lisa Baker of the English faculty moderated questions from the audience, many of which focused on Radden Keefe’s writing process. For Say Nothing, he spent four years traveling among Northern Ireland, England, Ireland, and the United States, sifting through archives and interviewing more than 100 people.
At the beginning of his writing career, “I was really inefficient because I love the research,” said Radden Keefe. “I could do research forever. But you need to come back and tell the story. It’s hard, but I think I’ve gotten better at it over the years.”
Radden Keefe grew up in Dorchester, Massachusetts, and attended college at Columbia. He earned master’s degrees from Cambridge University and the London School of Economics, and a J.D. from Yale Law School. In addition to The New Yorker, his work has appeared in The New York Review of Books, The New York Times Magazine, and other publications.
Many boys in society are conditioned from a young age to be tough, to hide their emotions, and to avoid any appearance of behaving “like a girl,” documentary filmmaker and anti-sexist activist Byron Hurt told student-athletes last fall as part of a series of speakers in the fall to promote mental fitness.
This mindset favors aggression, prevents boys from connecting with their emotions, and undervalues girls and women, sometimes leading to toxic masculinity and violence, said Hurt, who visited Milton athletes virtually.
“I grew up in a culture where you had to perform a certain kind of manhood and masculinity in order to be accepted by other guys and be seen as a ‘real man,’” he said. Boys hear words like “soft,” “gay,” and “girly” if they don’t meet the expectations of masculinity—and when those words are used as pejoratives it triggers the idea that women and gay men are weak.
Hurt urged students to intervene when they witness someone using sexist and homophobic language. “It takes strength and courage to stand up and say, ‘That’s not what we do,’” he said.
“This exaggerated sense of manhood is in the air that we breathe.If the culture doesn’t give us permission to cry, to be soft, and to express the full range of our emotions beyond anger, there can be some negative consequences.”
Hurt majored in journalism at Northeastern University, where he played quarterback and envisioned a career in radio and television broadcasting. He received an Emmy nomination for his television show, Reel Works with Byron Hurt. His new documentary, Hazing: How Badly Do You Want In, explores the dangerous culture of hazing.
Comfort food is having a moment, and science faculty member Heather Zimmer is showing students how to make it at home on a weekly cooking show. It’s part of the new Opt-In Program, in which faculty host casual and fun Zoom sessions such as trivia nights and current events discussions.
The Opt-In Program started last fall after a few faculty members and student head monitors ELIZA DUNN ’21 and GARVIN MCLAUGHLIN ’21 thought about ways to keep the strong sense of community at Milton while in a remote environment.
Zimmer says she and her husband, the head chef at 2nd Street Café in Cambridge, loved cooking with students when they lived in Norris House, and this was a fun way to replicate that experience. In their first episode, they taught students to make mac and cheese from scratch.
“First, we taught everyone to make a comfort-food-style cheddar dish and then helped students customize based on what they wanted to eat that night,” she says. The Zimmers provide the recipe in advance so that people can cook along with them if they wish. In other episodes a group made a “hearty chili as well as Rice Krispies treats with candy to celebrate Halloween.”
“A poem isn’t really done until it’s shared and lives in someone else,” said Bingham Visiting Writer Richard Blanco. Blanco read and discussed his poetry, which centers on ideas of home, identity, and nationality, with students in a Zoom webinar.
“What is home?” said Blanco, who immigrated to Miami as a child with his Cuban-exile parents. This idea grew bigger into What is a country? In my poems, I’m asking these questions for all of us.” When he was growing up, he said, he wasn’t sure if he was part of the American story. It wasn’t until he was asked to be the poet for President Barack Obama’s second inauguration that he felt his personal story was part of the American narrative.
In the webinar, Blanco read poems from his most recent collection, How to Love a Country. He also read from Boundaries and showed the photography by Jabon Bond Hessler that accompanies each poem. About the poem “Complaint of El Rio Grande,” Blanco said, “I wrote it with the voice of the river to speak to the absurdities of borders— they are just inventions, and I let the river speak about that.”
Blanco also answered students’ questions about his writing process and the power of art and poetry. “I don’t think a poem can change the world, but a poem can change a person, and that person can change the world,” he said.
Selected by President Obama as the fifth inaugural poet in U.S. history, Blanco is the first Latino, immigrant, and openly gay person to serve in the role—and was, until this year, also the youngest. His other collections include Matters of the Sea/Cosas del mar, Looking for the Gulf Motel, and Directions to the Beach of the Dead.
Established in 1987 by the Bingham family, the Visiting Writer Series brings esteemed writers, historians, and journalists to campus to speak and work with students and faculty.
Milton students in several humanities classes join those from six other Massachusetts schools in studying climate change and climate justice through the humanities during this year’s Humanities Workshop.
Teachers from the participating schools decided to focus on climate issues because they permeate so many aspects of life, including economic and racial inequality, human migration, and public health.
“There is a sense that climate change is just a science problem, which of course is not the case—it’s a human problem,” says Milton faculty member Alisa Braithwaite. “If our climate dies, so do we. We wanted to bring the concepts of humanities disciplines together to create a narrative that helps people to see that climate change is an urgent, human problem—one that we should be learning about and fighting for from every corner of our world.”
The Humanities Workshop is a yearlong academic project conducted by a consortium of Boston-area public, charter, and private schools. Braithwaite and Lisa Baker, both Milton English teachers, founded the workshop in 2017 as a way to affirm the humanities’ role in tackling urgent social issues. This is the second cycle; the first centered on issues of economic inequality.
“Under the umbrella of climate, students can tackle so many different topics, from how climate change relates to inequality, to public health issues like the pandemic, to migration as a result of climate change,” Baker says. “You can look back at the history of how these issues have been addressed or not addressed. Who controls the narrative, and who changes that narrative are really interesting questions to explore within the context of the humanities.”
The consortium includes Boston Latin School, Boston International Newcomers Academy, Boston Collegiate Charter School, Academy of the Pacific Rim, Boston College High School, Phillips Andover Academy, and Milton.
Typically a busy hub for study and research, Cox Library needed a plan to serve the community through this year’s remote and hybrid learning phases. Milton’s librarians went to work finding creative ways to operate.
When Milton first went remote last spring, it “coincided with the start of the history department’s ‘research season,’” says Laura Pearle, the library’s director. “We created a portal that included a chat box so that students looking for library assistance could talk with a librarian from 5:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Students from all over the United States, China, and Europe contacted us for help with citations, using the databases, and general help on various topics.”
Over the summer, the librarians (Pearle, Beth Reardon, Joanna Novick, and Mitchell Edwards) participated in professional development; attended numerous webinars about books, providing remote services, and tech tools for remote learning; and participated in online discussions with their peers nationwide on providing service with a closed facility. They started a library newsletter to promote new resources and remind people of existing ones.
The librarians also added SORA, an ebook service, and curbside pickup for the print collection. Students can reserve books online and pick them up from a table in front of the library. For Middle School students, books are delivered to homerooms.
Ten Milton students participated in the Harvard WECode virtual conference in October. CAROLINE WILSON ’21 and DINA-SARA CUSTO ’22 served as Milton’s student ambassadors and were two of the 21 (out of 80) student ambassadors who received WECode Leadership Awards. Prior to the event, they connected virtually with the Harvard WECode board, and other ambassadors from around the world to spread information and help organize the conference.
“We had the opportunity to listen to discussions surrounding STEM majors, internships, college admissions, college life, and other opportunities for women in technology,” says Wilson. “Even after the conference, we continued to connect with women in tech from the conference via channels on the platform Slack.”
Wilson says that Jen Easterly, managing director for Morgan Stanley, and Elena Glassman, assistant professor of computer science at Harvard University, “inspired our students to be fearless leaders not only in their computer science classes but also in their future paths.”