Each year, during the month of January, the University of Pennsylvania and our surrounding communities come together to commemorate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The commemoration reminds us of our interdependence and reaffirms our commitment to the betterment of our communities through civility and service.

Opening our doors to embrace programming and visitors dedicated to realizing Dr. King's vision transforms the campus. Sharing our strengths and diversity as we commemorate Dr. King has an impact on the University that continues to be felt across campus and the Philadelphia community.

Martin Luther King, Jr at Penn

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is greeted at the University Museum on "Law Day USA", May 1, 1965. (Photo by Bernato, courtesy the University Archives)

A Message from the Chair of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Executive Planning Committee:

“Living in the colony of time, we are ultimately responsible to the empire of eternity (Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Strength to Love).”  Dr. King’s words continue to challenge us today. When we make choices in a moral framework that benefits the many over the few, take responsibility for the choices we make and maintain a conscious awareness of our power over our own actions, we are taking responsibility for the future of our world and the empire of humanity. When we afford others the opportunity to take responsibility for their actions and to make good choices, we are setting the stage for a pathway that will empower and dignify throughout eternity. This pathway enables us to realize that the problems of our day, perhaps through no direct fault of our own, are in our hands and that our knowledge of pain, suffering and injustice equals a responsibility to act. As a nation, we have not always responsibly responded with actions to the pain and suffering of others. As our great nation experienced slavery, a blind eye was turned toward the inhumane experiences of those enslaved. Dr. King said, “Slavery in America was perpetuated not merely by human badness but also by human blindness”, (Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Strength to Love). On some level, our societal blindness continues as white supremacy hate groups operating in the United States continued to rise in 2008 and has grown by 54 percent since 2000 — an increase fueled last year by immigration fears, a failing economy, and the successful campaign of Barack Obama, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).

We can begin to heal through the acknowledgement that white supremacy/racism continues to be a major societal disease. We can continue the healing by finding ways to transform the world into the eternity that we hope for our children’s children. “Only through an inner spiritual transformation do we gain the strength to fight vigorously the evils of the world in a humble and loving spirit. The transformed nonconformist, moreover, never yields to the passive sort of patience that is an excuse to do nothing”, (Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Strength to Love).

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. with his daughter Yolanda King. (Photo by James Karales)

“When an affluent society would coax us to believe that happiness consists in the size of our automobiles ,the impressiveness of our houses, and the expensiveness of our clothes, Jesus reminds us, 'A person's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.... When we, through compassionless detachment and arrogant individualism, fail to respond to the needs of the under-privileged, the Master says, 'Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me (Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Strength to Love).”

Let us begin this calendar year understanding our connection to one another and our responsibility to those who are to come after us. Let us engage each other in fun filled and serious dialogues about our future as a human family. Feel welcomed to take part in the University of Pennsylvania’s Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Symposium on Social Change. Most MLK Symposium events are free and open to the public.  They include workshops, discussions, panels, lectures, performances, special presentations, award ceremonies, interfaith programs and documentary film screenings.

The University of Pennsylvania’s Annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Symposium on Social Change begins on Wednesday, January 15, 2014 (Dr. King’s actual birthday) with the Women of Color at Penn noon time network lunch series discussion on "Celebration of Peace " which will highlight actual accomplishments of peace and justice within our lifetime. This discussion will be facilitated by Gloria Gay and Colleen Winn, African-American Resource Center for University Life, University of Pennsylvania. The centerpiece of our MLK Symposium, the Day of Services activities, this year will be held on Monday, January 20, 2014. This marks the 18th year for Penn's "Day of Service" activities beginning with a breakfast for volunteers at 8:30 a.m. inside Houston Hall.  Houston Hall volunteer activities include: children’s banner painting, recording children’s books on tape, and sock stuffing. Included in the 2014 day of service activities has been added three workshops. The workshops will run consecutively and includes Workplace Readiness, College Access, and Financial Literacy. Participants will also be involved with a variety of community service projects in the West Philadelphia area until 2 p.m. Other featured programs include: Signature Program lecture with Dorothy E. Roberts, J.D. Penn Law School. The Interfaith program, Africana Studies Social Justice Lecture, and PLP performance at the Rotunda. The symposium will close with the Jazz for King program on Friday, January 31, 2014.

A listing of events is available at http://www.upenn.edu/aarc/mlk/calendar_mlk.htm          

Respectfully Submitted
Robert Carter
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemorative Symposium Executive Committee Co-Chair