• Academics
  • Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
Hutchins Institute for Social Justice Welcomes Michael Patrick MacDonald

Lawrenceville’s Hutchins Institute for Social Justice welcomed New York Times best-selling author Michael Patrick MacDonald to campus last week as the second guest in its Mini-Residency Program.

“The Mini-Residencies are designed to provide Lawrentians opportunities to engage social justice through multiple perspectives and experiences. As an author, activist, and educator, Michael helps us understand social justice as a subject, a practice, and a pedagogy,” said Hutchins Institute for Social Justice Executive Director Zaheer Ali. “Through his books, ‘All Souls: A Family Story from Southie’ and ‘Easter Rising: A Memoir of Roots and Rebellion,’ Michael challenges us to think about race, class, ethnicity, community, national identity, and social justice in complex and nuanced ways. Through his work with communities that have experienced trauma, he demonstrates the transformative power of storytelling as a means of healing and empowerment. And through his teaching, he is nurturing a new generation of voices that can speak to the social issues of our time.”

Hutchins Center for Social Justice Welcomes Michael Patrick MacDonald

MacDonald began with an evening workshop for English teachers on memoir writing. The following day, he led several English classes, spoke at School meeting, and concluded with a lecture at the Hutchins Institute for Social Justice. His talks focused on how his life and work as a community organizer and social justice advocate have informed his writing.

Hutchins Center for Social Justice Welcomes Michael Patrick MacDonald

In the English classes he led, MacDonald explained that the “insular, isolated” south Boston neighborhood of his childhood had the highest concentration of White poverty in the United States. Most residents were Irish-Americans, living in fear of what he called the “Irish Mafia,” gangs that controlled drugs, crime, and even the local police. As an adult, MacDonald was inspired by activists he saw in nearby Roxbury, Mass., a majority Black neighborhood, who courageously created community organizations to combat crime. He eventually joined forces with those activists to create citywide coalitions of underserved residents. “We have to allow space for everyone’s story and provide space for people to be more than the trauma they have experienced,” MacDonald said. After leading students through a brief writing workshop, he said, “We are all a collection of stories. It can take years and sometimes be re-traumatizing to tell yours. But remember: you are in charge, you are in control of your story. Voice equals power.”

Hutchins Center for Social Justice Welcomes Michael Patrick MacDonald

English teacher Victoria Stitt hopes that her students have learned to “grasp the importance of sharing their lives and the gravity of their own experiences [and to] uncover their own voices and cultivate even further their way of excavating and telling their stories; to understand that ‘good’ stories can come from anywhere.”

Ali expects that MacDonald and the School community have learned from each other through this Mini-Residency. 

“I hope that our community, and students in particular, come away with a clearer sense of how all of us are impacted by injustice, and how each one of us has the opportunity and obligation to use our voice and our stories to imagine a better world, and then do the work to bring it into being,” said Ali. “And I hope that Michael learns how curious our faculty, staff, and students are to learn about and across differences, how thoughtful and reflective we are about the places we occupy and the privileges we enjoy, and how committed we are to marshaling our resources to have a positive impact on society.”

For additional information, please contact Lisa M. Gillard, director of public relations, at lgillard@lawrenceville.org.