Penn State To Celebrate MLK Day With Week Of Service, Campus Events

Penn State will pay tribute to the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in celebration of the upcoming holiday.

Across all campuses, students, faculty, and the public can honor the civil rights leader through a variety of virtual and in-person events throughout the week. Activist and civil rights icon Bettie Mae Fikes joins the celebration as a special keynote speaker in both an in-person and virtual format.

An original member of the Freedom Singers, Fikes founded the group alongside a generation of Black voices and joined Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. during the voting rights struggle in Selma. Known as “The Voice of Selma,” Bettie Mae Fikes utilized her talent and all-enduring drive to battle inequality, becoming a timeless symbol of the 1960s Civil Rights Movement.

In addition to this special lecture, Penn State offers a variety of celebrations to commemorate MLK Day for the entire week. Other events organized by campus location can be found here.

MLK Week of Service — January 17 to January 21

During a weeklong event, the MLK, Jr. Commemoration Student Committee will provide service opportunities for University Park students. Two in-person service sessions will include backpack-packing, letter-writing, and blanket-making.

On Monday, January 17, students can participate in person from 10 a.m. to noon in 110 HUB and 111 HUB. Another in-person session will continue in the afternoon from 2 to 4 p.m. in 110 HUB. Registration is required, as space is limited, and all participants must follow COVID-19 protocols for in-person activities.

Other service stations will open for students during the week. Participants who register for the event will be updated accordingly with more details on these additional service opportunities.

Food Drive — January 17 to January 21

Throughout the week, students can donate non-perishable food and necessity items to their local community in 103 HUB.

The food drive event runs from January 17 through January 21 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

MLK Evening Celebration Speaker: LaTosha Brown — January 20

Speaker LaTosha Brown joins the Penn State community with a hopeful voice for the future. In a virtual presentation, Brown will lecture a piece entitled “Who Will Save American Democracy? The Role of Women, Young Voters and People of Color in American Politics.”

The virtual lecture will begin at 7 p.m. on January 20. It can be accessed here.

Keynote Speaker: Bettie Mae Fikes — January 18

Penn State Scranton welcomes civil rights leader Bettie Mae Fikes, “The Voice of Selma.” A founding vocalist in the Freedom Singers, Fikes traveled with Dr. Martin Luther King when battling for racial equality in the voting rights struggle of Selma in 1963.  

Born in Selma, Alabama, Fikes began singing gospel music at the age of four. With a passion for change, she became a student leader within the Civil Rights Movement at sixteen and joined Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. shortly after during voting rights protests. Jailed in 1963 for her participation in the movement, Fikes motivated other protestors to continue the fight with her incredible singing voice, earning the title “The Voice of Selma.”

Since then, she’s appeared as both a singer and speaker on many stages, including Carnegie Hall and the Library of Congress. Most recently, Fikes was honored in the Museum of Tolerance within the Smithsonian Institute, an exhibit honoring women of the Civil Rights Movement.

Welcomed by the chancellor of Penn State Scranton, Marwan Wafa, Fikes joins the Scranton campus for their sixth annual MLK Day Celebration and Excellence in Diversity Awards at 11:30 a.m. on January 18 in the Sherbine Lounge. A virtual format is also available, and both options are open to the public.

Registration is required for both attending in-person and virtually. In-person check-in will begin at 11:15 a.m., and all university COVID-19 protocols are in place for the event.

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About the Author

Lizzie Palmieri

Lizzie is a senior majoring in Marketing and Psychology from Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Ask her about Disney World, Diet Pepsi, or dancing on the Jumbotron at Beaver Stadium. When not causing general trouble, Lizzie enjoys playing golf, performing in the theatre, and being the CEO of reorganizing the fridge. Her favorite thing to do is hang out with her sassy sidekick, 19-year-old Italian Greyhound, Macaroni. Follow her on Twitter @lizziepalmieri if your deepest desire is bestie vibes only.

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