MLK, Jr. Commemoration Week to tell the full story of King
When the Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemoration Committee sat down together almost four months ago, the group decided collectively that this year, the complete story of King should be told.
“The general consensus of the group was that we wanted to stay away from a sanitized version of MLK, so like the whole, holding hands, rainbow, wasn’t what we planned on doing,” said Symone McCollum, a junior education and public policy major and Executive Director of the MLK, Jr. Commemoration Week. The MLK, Jr. Commemoration week is a week-long celebration honoring the life and legacy of King, held weekly at the university in January. “We wanted to do something that promoted critical thinking.”
This year’s theme, “Deconstructing the Dream: At Whose Expense?”, gets to the heart of that sentiment, inviting members of the community to dig deeper into the life of King.
“Over our journey as an MLK, Jr. Commemoration Committee, we talked about what our theme would be for a long time and we all met up and had some heated discussions because we tried to figure out a way to answer this question,” said Brian Davis, a senior majoring in African American studies and the Community and Faculty Outreach Co-Director for the MLK, Jr. Commemoration Committee, during the Committee’s week announcement on Dec. 1, 2017. “When we think about the course of this country including racism, things have been deconstructed. But the biggest question when we think about that is at whose expense was it at?”
“We were thinking, ‘how can we encompass today, the past and really be holistic of what we wanted to talk about? How can we be more cognizant of different groups that were left out of the image of the civil rights movement?’ When you see the image of [this year’s] MLK commemoration, it encompasses all of those things,” said Awaly Diallo, a sophomore sociology and African American Studies major and Evening Celebration Director.
“And we really wanted to be more radical to show the side that people don’t usually show,” she continued.
Throughout the week, the committee has planned events that dig deeper into the Civil Rights Movement and highlight some of the marginalized voices of the movement.
“This week is very community based and [we’re] making sure that we’re able to continue the legacy of working together and also being able to educate ourselves,” Diallo said. “Leading committees was a lot of learning and unlearning. It was a moral obligation to yourself to learn and unlearn things about history, MLK and society as well.”
The events begin on Monday, Jan. 15 with the Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service where students will have the chance to volunteer both on campus and around Centre County with partnering organizations.
On Tuesday, Jan. 16, Dr. Ed Jackson, the Executive Architect of the MLK, Jr. National Memorial will speak in the HUB-Robeson’s Freeman Auditorium on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m.
“Silence Interrupted: Reconstructing the Dream,” a talent showcase, takes place on Wednesday at 6 p.m. in the HUB-Robeson’s Heritage Hall.
Community event “Art Activism in the ‘60s,” an outreach event, begins at 5 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 18 in Heritage Hall. The event will feature works from local school students and their interpretation of this year’s theme.
To conclude the week, actress Amanda Seales will keynote the Evening Celebration on Friday, Jan. 19 at Schwab Auditorium. The event is ticketed but free on a first-come, first-served basis. Doors open at 5:30 p.m.
“We really wanted to give his whole vision,” Diallo continued. “Dr. [Errol] Henderson (a professor in political science at Penn State) brought up of a great idea of not reducing him down to the “I Have a Dream Speech” and making him more than just a stagnant character and more so a moving, growing and changing person.”
More information about the Commemoration Week can be found on the week’s website.