DUNMORE, Pa. — Penn State Scranton will once again honor the enduring legacy of the late Martin Luther King Jr. while recognizing the campus’ own commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion with a virtual presentation of its sixth annual MLK Day Celebration.
The free event will take place on Martin Luther King Jr. Day – Monday, Jan. 18 — at 2 p.m. on Zoom, and is open to both the campus community and the general public. Those interested in attending can register at: https://scranton.psu.edu/mlk.
This year’s MLK Day theme is “Love and Truth,” according to Dharti Ray, campus coordinator of diversity, equity and inclusion. In addition to remarks by Penn State Scranton Chancellor Marwan Wafa, student leaders of the Multicultural Council — the Indian Student Association, Student Organization of Latinos, Black Student Union and LGBTQA+ Club — will present readings from some of King’s iconic speeches.
The campus will also recognize those committed to making the world a more diverse and inclusive place with its Excellence in Diversity Award. Two awards will be given at the ceremony: one to a member of the campus community, and another to a local community member or organization who demonstrate a commitment to diversity.
Greater Scranton MLK Commission's annual MLK Day Community Event
Meanwhile, the campus is a community partner for the Greater Scranton MLK Commission's annual MLK Day Community Event, which will take place Jan. 18 at noon on Zoom. Also open to the general public, the free event will feature a talk by Penn State alumnus and former NBA player John Amaechi, now an organizational psychologist, internationally known public speaker and bestselling author. To register for the event, visit https://safdn.org/mlk-event.
“We are always excited to be part of their celebrations. The MLK Commission works very hard throughout the year to put their event together and we are happy to provide any assistance needed,” Ray said.
The “Love and Truth” theme, selected by the MLK Commission, was inspired by King’s quote from his 1964 Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech: “I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right temporarily defeated is stronger than evil triumphant.”
“Love and truth leads to empathy; we all need to listen with empathy,” Ray said.
According to the MLK Commission, Amaechi’s talk, which is titled “The Unarmed Truth” and being sponsored by Geisinger, will delve into the concept of unarmed truth “in an effort to inspire and move our community towards equitable justice and unconditional love.”
“Be prepared to be inspired and transformed as Dr. Amaechi challenges the beliefs and behaviors that prevent us from being our best selves and community, and offers personal insights and tools to create hope and individual growth,” said MLK Commission publicist Jennifer Pennington.
Now is as good a time as ever to reflect on and put into action King’s philosophies, Wafa said, given the bigotry that still exists in American society and that was further amplified during the 2020 nationwide protests resulting from the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers.
In Wafa’s view, the community as a whole should be able to agree to commit to issues of social justice, “so that we can all live in peace and harmony.”
“All of these things we see now raise the alarm that we should be doing more to remove the barriers that exist between us, so that we can see we’re all human beings who despite our differences share many things in common,” Wafa said. “People need to get to know one another so they don’t fear each other and draw false assumptions about those who are different from them. We should be bringing humanity together and overcoming our fears of those we don’t know, while also celebrating our differences.”
MLK Day typically features a community service element in which students, faculty and staff spend part of the day volunteering out in the community. While COVID-19 mitigation efforts will prevent that this year, Ray said event participants will have the opportunity to register for programs that promote diversity and inclusion, including the campus’ well-regarded Diversity Circles.
Ray said King’s ideals apply well to the missions of academic institutions like Penn State Scranton — which is why it’s so crucial to pay homage to his legacy.
“Leaders are developed throughout their college experience and it is important to remind all of MLK's journey,” Ray said. “His vision to provide equal and fair education to all is a principle of many institutions today. Equitable opportunities for all is the vision he had for the future of America, and we must continue to push that mission forward. That is the way to sustain a more diverse and inclusive society.”
For more information on the campus MLK Day Celebration, contact Ray at 570-963-2685 or [email protected].
For further information on the MLK Commission’s event, contact Pennington at 570-903-9450 or [email protected].