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[Photo Story] Graduate Students Lead Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration Event

On Thursday, April 4, community members and students gathered to commemorate the life, legacy, and teachings of Martin Luther King Jr. The event was hosted by the State College Borough Racial Equity Board and was facilitated through the tireless work of several Penn State graduate students. The event showcased numerous music and poetry performances and interactive discussions, focused on commemorating King’s life and death.

The event kicked off with a welcome address from Penn State graduate student Carmin Wong.

Wong talked about her experiences on the Racial Equity Board and how Kings’ teachings continue to apply today.

Immediately following the opening remarks, the community members joined together in a song led by graduate student Kesla Elmore. The song, often referred to as the Black national anthem, was “Lift Every Voice and Sing.”

Following this, attendees were serenaded with a poetry reading from Gabriel Pulido, another Penn State student. Pulido read numerous poems from the creative and academic genres, including those of Black female contemporary poets Lucille Clifton, Ariana Brown, and Alice Walker. Pulido additionally shared some of his own original work.

Next, audience members enjoyed an excerpt from one of King’s speeches, read by graduate student Pheolyn Allen, with additional self-composed commentary.

The reading was a heartfelt commentary on the significance of King’s anti-war sentiment and how it continues to apply to the present day.

Participants were then serenaded with a tuba performance by Jaden Adkins, a graduate student pursuing his MFA in musical performance.

Ph.D. student Sean Hambrick followed the performance with a reading of his own writing, titled “Unshackled!,” which serves as a commentary on Black history and education.

Hembrick talked about his experiences as a Black educator and the value of teaching Black history. He discussed how educators and communities must continue to intertwine Black history teachings with American history.

Kesla Elmore returned to share work and reflections on King’s legacy and what work remains to be done 55 years after his death.

The second to last speaker was Takina Walker, another master’s student, who shared the history of Coretta Scott and her relationship with King. Her story of love and romance brought up the significance of Black women and their role in King’s legacy.

The evening’s keynote speaker was graduate student Morgan Robinson. Robinson engaged the audience by posing multiple questions about their experience and knowledge of Black community history. Her guiding question was, “How can we use the black community tradition of organizing to keep the movement in motion forward?” Through her speech, participants reflected on King’s dream and what it looks like today.

Community members came forward to share their experiences and stories relating to the event and King’s legacy.

The evening wrapped up with conversations, laughs, and food provided by the hosts.

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About the Author

Jack Anderson-Jussen

Jack is a second-year finance and accounting major from Pittsburgh, PA, and is one of Onward State's photographers. A die-hard Penguins fan, Jack bleeds black and gold. Feel free to follow his incredible Spotify playlists and make him feel good about how much time he's spent on them. When not taking pictures you'll find Jack at Panzer Stadium playing for the club lacrosse team. Follow him for more @jackaj_ on Instagram, and @jackaj on Spotify.

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