PHILADELPHIA –- A two-week observance at the University of Pennsylvania of the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. begins with a Day of Service, Monday, Jan. 18, when volunteers will participate in activities that have become staples of this event: community-beautification projects, a food drive benefiting West Philadelphia’s People’s Emergency Center, the assembly of charitable gift packages and commemorative art projects.
The day kicks off with a breakfast for the volunteers at Houston Hall, where participants will be welcomed by Penn President Amy Gutmann. Buses will provide transportation to the project sites from campus.
Also that day, Penn’s School of Veterinary Medicine will hold a free dog and cat vaccination clinic from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., and a candlelight vigil is planned at 8 p.m. from the DuBois College House, 3900 Walnut St.
The MLK Symposium on Social Change, 4-7 p.m., Tuesday, Jan. 19, will highlight the legacy of Bayard Rustin, the civil-rights activist and advisor to King who was a central figure in planning the 1963 March on Washington. The event will feature a screening of “Brother Outsider,” a documentary about Rustin’s life as an openly gay man, and a panel discussion with faculty from Penn’s School of Social Policy and Practice.
On Wednesday, Jan. 20, Penn professor Tukufu Zuberi will examine how racial statistics are used –- and often misinterpreted –- in the media and academia.
Another highlight includes a tent city on College Green that will go up at noon, Thursday, Jan. 21, to illustrate the plight of homeless Americans. The student group Penn Haven, in partnership with the Kensington Welfare Rights Union and the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign, will erect the tents, where participating students, faculty and staff will spend the night in solidarity with homeless families. The event kicks off with a rally at Houston Hall with community members speaking about King’s legacy as an advocate for poor and working people.
Thursday will also feature an Interfaith Program and Awards Commemoration with guest speaker Elizabeth Alexander, a poet, essayist, playwright and chair of the Department of African American Studies at Yale University. Alexander spoke at the Inauguration of President Obama.
Penn’s annual MLK Social Justice lecture will be held Friday, Jan. 22, with Benjamin Jealous, president and CEO of the NAACP in conversation with Penn professor Camille Z. Charles. This event honors individuals of African descent who have committed themselves to social justice.
Penn’s MLK observances also include events that explore questions about civil rights of all Americans, based not just on race, but ethnicity, sexual orientation and income and opportunity as well. These include film screenings, panel discussions, lectures, workshops, musical performances, poetry and dramatic presentations, a research symposium, a multimedia experience on social media transforming the sense of community, a guest performance, “Let Me Down Easy” with actress Anna Deavere Smith and a youth art contest for students at local public schools, among others.
Additional information, including dates, times, locations and descriptions of all Penn MLK events, is available at www.upenn.edu/aarc/mlk.