The University of Pennsylvania’s African-American Resource Center personnel coordinated with organizations all over campus to create a symposium of social justice-oriented events lasting nearly a month. Now, they’re wrapping up this year’s Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Symposium on Social Change.
“Each January, Penn and its neighbors work together to commemorate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.,” Valerie Dorsey Allen, the director of the African-American Resource Center and MLK Symposium event organizer, says. “This annual symposium reminds us of our interdependence and reaffirms our commitment to improving our communities through civility and service.”
MLK Symposium events are free and open to the public.
During the week of Jan. 30, they include:
- “The Ascension Dialogue,” a discussion about the King that is never quoted and the misappropriation of his legacy in contemporary society on Tuesday, Jan. 31, at 5:30 p.m. in the ARCH Building’s Fireside Room, 3601 Locust Walk. Led by Penn GSE part-time lecturer Eric Grimes.
- “Black Educational Choice: Assessing the Private and Public Alternatives to Traditional K-12 Schools,” a book discussion with editors Diana Slaughter-DeFoe, Howard Stevenson, Edith Arrington and Deborah Johnson, who will address the achievement gap and strategies to improve school choice in the African-American community, Wednesday, Feb. 1, noon–2 p.m., at the Penn Bookstore, 3601 Walnut St.
- “Chicano Rights Movement,” an event exploring the actions and leaders in El Movimiento, the Chicano rights movement, featuring an open discussion of the push for the Mexican-American voter registration and rights to a bilingual education, Wednesday, Feb. 1, at 6 p.m. in the ARCH Building’s Fireside Room, 3601 Locust Walk.
“One of our events wrapping up the symposium is unbelievably inspirational,” Robert Carter, the associate director of the African-American Resource Center and event organizer, says. “The ‘Brothers Keep Dreaming’ two-part event pairs younger black males with senior citizens at Penn Nursing’s Living Independently for Elders Center.”
Earlier during this year’s symposium, LIFE hosted “Brothers Keep Dreaming” Part 1, when a younger generation of African-American males met with older members of the community to engage in cooperative activities and discuss what it meant to be a black man living through the Civil Rights Era and what it means for young men to benefit from it.
“Just to watch the interaction between them is great,” Carter says. “The young people’s eyes light up when they talk to the elders. But, the elders, whose eyes have seen racial injustice and violence firsthand, are genuinely honored to share their stories with the next generation in the hopes that they’ll take steps toward progress and bettering their own lives as well as the lives of those in their community. It’s heartwarming.”
In “Brothers Keep Dreaming” Part 2, scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 2, Penn students will host the LIFE Center elders at Du Bois College House, where the elders will show and discuss snippets from their documentary about King’s legacy and what it means for today’s youth.
“The last event in the series is our signature program, which about how disenfranchised and marginalized groups have used the arts to address issues of social change and justice,” Allen says.
To conclude this year’s MLK Symposium, the African-American Resource Center is hosting “Culture and Consciousness: Arts and Social Justice,” Friday, Feb. 3. There will be a dinner reception from 5 to 6 p.m. at the Castor Building, 3701 Locust Walk. The event will continue from 6 to 8 p.m. at Huntsman Hall.
Featuring information and performances focusing on understanding, honoring and celebrating the role of the arts in the civil rights movement, the program highlights the issues surrounding incarceration and social justice and includes a panel discussion on the history and impact of the arts.
Symposium coordinators believe that this year, more student organizations participated in the events and event planning. In fact, they say, this is one of the largest University-wide collaborations, with student groups, schools, centers, programs and departments working together in the name of social justice.