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Penn State Students Honoring Martin Luther King, Jr. This Week

by on January 18, 2016 6:00 AM
University Park, PA

It's MLK Day, the holiday that celebrates the birthday of an American icon and a champion of the Civil Rights movement.

But here in State College and at Penn State, it's essentially MLK Week, as the university holds a weeklong celebration of King.

That celebration -- the 31st annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemoration -- will be highlighted by tonight's Evening Celebration including a speech by Sybrina Fulton, the mother of Trayvon Martin. Martin was a 17-year-old African American who was shot and killed in Florida in 2012 by George Zimmerman while returning from a convenience store.

Fulton now works for the Trayvon Martin Foundation, a non-profit that aims to bring awareness to violent crimes and support the families of other victims. Fulton has been vocal about her opinions on stricter gun laws and the need for awareness regarding violence toward the African American community. 

"We are extremely excited about having her, especially amid racial tensions that have escalated in recent years," said Jael Charles, a Penn State student and the executive director of the Commemoration. "Sybrina Fulton will encourage a call to action among all individuals within the community and bring a message of hope and change."

The Evening Celebration will include a speech from Penn State president Eric Barron on social justice before Fulton's talk. The celebration will take place at Schwab Auditorium on campus tonight starting at 6 p.m.

The week begins bright and early this morning with the annual MLK Day of Service, where students will volunteer at numerous sites on campus and in State College. There will also be a variety of performances by student organizations on campus throughout the day.

On Wednesday, the Community Showcase will be held, displaying artwork from local students from the elementary to high school level. The students also participate in a poetry and essay contest and the winners will be able to recite their pieces at the event. The showcase, which is intended to be a "bridge between Penn State students, faculty, and the surrounding community" will run from 5:30 to 7 p.m. in 129ABC HUB-Robeson Center.

The Commemoration continues on Thursday with a speech contest and discussion titled "Speak for Peace." Students are asked to write speeches based on the annual theme of the week, which is social justice this year. In addition to the speeches, there will be a dinner reception where students and faculty are encouraged to discuss social justice topics. Speak for Peace will start at 7 p.m. in Heritage Hall at the HUB-Robeson Center.

That's just a small selection of the highlights from this week's Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemoration. Head over to the official website for a full list of the events taking place on campus and in town this week in honor of King's birthday. 

Zach Berger is the managing editor of He graduated from Penn State University in 2014 with a degree in print journalism. Zach enjoys writing about a variety of topics ranging from football to government, music, and everything in between.
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