Campus Life

MLK Commemoration celebrates King's legacy; features keynote speaker Dyson

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Penn State’s 30th annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemoration will celebrate the late civil rights leader’s life and work with a message that “Now, More Than Ever,” is the time to make King’s vision of a more just and peaceful world a reality.

The commemoration features events throughout the month of January, highlighted by the Jan. 22 Evening Celebration with keynote speaker Michael Eric Dyson, the well-known professor and author of numerous books on society, culture, history and race.

The theme of “Now, More Than Ever,” is represented in a design by junior graphic design student Meaghan Lee Cafferty. Against a stark background, rows of different watches display the same message: “Now.”

“My interpretation of this year’s MLK Commemoration theme focuses on proactive energy,” Cafferty explained of her design. “The time for change is now. To visually express this, I designed a series of watches in different colors, shapes, and styles but all of them have the same message: the time is now. We can’t wait for change; we must be the change. The time is now, more than ever.”

Cafferty’s design was chosen from entries created by students in professor Lanny Sommese's Graphic Design 400 course. All of the student submissions will be on display in the central lobby of Pattee Library through Feb. 28.

A campus and community committee and student commemoration committee jointly selected this year's theme.

“Dr. King implored us to live a life of positive action, and this year’s theme is a reminder that each generation has a duty to carry on his work,” said Marcus Whitehurst, interim vice provost for Educational Equity and chair of the MLK Commemoration Committee. “His dream is not something that was accomplished in a distant past or that lives in a far-off future. It’s our job, right now, to stand up for equality, justice and peace.”

Wednesday, Jan. 21 marks the 50th anniversary of King’s address at Penn State’s Rec Hall. King spoke to a crowd of 8,000 about the civil rights movement, America’s legacy of slavery and segregation and the principles he believed would change the world.  On the anniversary, The Speak for Peace: Social Justice Reception and MLK Oratorical Contest will be held in conjunction with the Gamma Nu Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity at 6:30 p.m. in HUB Heritage Hall.

An audio broadcast of King’s Rec Hall address will be played at 11 a.m. on Monday, Jan. 19, in Foster Auditorium, Paterno Library. At 1 p.m. choral ensemble Essence of Joy will perform musical selections in Franklin Atrium, Pattee Library,

Monday, Jan. 19, is Martin Luther King Day, and though students have a holiday from classes, many will be committing their day to serving the community during the annual Day of Service from 8:30 a.m.-3 p.m., beginning in Alumni Hall of the HUB-Robeson Center. Community members can sign up to volunteer at  A blood drive will be held throughout the day in Heritage Hall in partnership with the Penn State Student Red Cross Club.

The Evening Celebration kicks off at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 22 in Schwab Auditorium. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. Dyson’s keynote address is entitled “Pharaoh and Moses: The Radical Legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. in the Age of Obama.”  This lecture will address the continuities and conflicts between King’s legacy and the presidential legacy of Barack Obama. Using his recent books and essays on King and Obama, as well as recent national events in Ferguson, Mo. and beyond as a starting point, Dyson will address their similarities, differences and the clashing and confused expectations of Obama in light of his identification with King’s life and rhetoric.

Free tickets for the Evening Celebration are available in 209 HUB and the Paul Robeson Cultural Center. Tickets also can be ordered online here.

Capping the week of events, a Peace Sit-In will be held starting at 5:30 p.m. on Friday Jan. 23 in West Cultural Lounge.

Whitehurst praised members of the MLK Commemoration Student Planning Committee, including executive director Ashley Walker, for their work in planning events to honor King's legacy.

“In our 30th year of holding an official commemoration to honor the life of Dr. King, our student leaders have become critical in guiding the planning and ensuring that we are conveying important messages and lessons about King’s legacy in a thoughtful way. Once again, we owe great thanks to them for their inspiring commitment to carrying on Dr. King’s values”

For additional information, visit Follow the commemoration on Twitter and Facebook.

Junior graphic design student Meaghan Lee Cafferty's poster design represents the 2015 MLK Commemoration theme of "Now, More Than Ever." Credit: Meaghan Lee CaffertyAll Rights Reserved.

Last Updated January 19, 2015