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Fifty Years After Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Death, a College Remembers the Man and Students Give Back

Fifty years after the assassination of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., America still struggles with the issues faced by past generations: civil unrest, police brutality, segregation, racism and discrimination.

On February 19, 2018, the College's African American History Month Diversity Dialogue event examined Life After King, the relevance of King's tactics and messages of love in a nation where mass shootings and hate groups have become commonplace. Faculty members Aaron Love, assistant professor of History, Philosophy and Religious Studies, and Debonair Oates-Primus, assistant professor of English, discussed the history of the civil rights movement and offered insights while alumnus Robert Hudson and student Ismail Ebo addressed the relevance and significance of King’s legacy to youth today. Derrick Perkins, director of the Center for Male Engagement, moderated the panel. 

At noon on March 22, in the Winnet Coffeehouse, a second public dialogue, Remembering the Ladies, is planned for Women’s History month. Dr. Claudia Curry, director of the Women's Outreach and Advocacy Center, will moderate the program. Angela P. Dodson, author of the book, Remember the Ladies, will highlight some of the women who played a major role in the civil rights movement and the hard won struggle by women for their right to vote.

Both dialogues are part of an ongoing series of conversations being held during the first 80 days of the year throughout Philadelphia as residents remember Dr. King and examine this nation's efforts to foster his beloved community. 

New Conversation on Race and Ethnicity (NewCORE), a multiracial, interfaith group striving to achieve the “more perfect union” envisioned The NewCORE MLK Legacy Conversations: 80/80. The goal of NewCORE is to “recognize the urgency to speak and listen to our racial and ethnic histories, experiences and struggles and to respect each person’s dignity and individual journey."

In addition, students, faculty and staff at the College are remembering Dr. King by engaging in service and taking a stand for social justice. On the MLK holiday in January, the College community joined 5,000 volunteers—including Governor Tom Wolf, District Attorney Larry Krasner, and other elected officials—at Girard College for the 23rd annual Greater Philadelphia MLK Day of Service. The day of service is a city-wide signature event featuring more than 150 service projects and was established to promote volunteer service and civic engagement.

Student ambassadors, along with Jenavia Weaver, the coordinator of the Student Leadership and Involvement Center, held a book drive this year for youth to promote literacy. The Free Library of Philadelphia donated more than 250 books to the cause. Weaver, a lover of literature, has organized an MLK Day of Service project for more than 13 years and donated 100 books from her personal collection this year alone. 

“We wanted to engage with them," Weaver said. "Reading a book, playing games – these are teaching tools.”

The project also gave youth a chance to unplug and enjoy quality time with College volunteers.

“The idea was to get children and youth to turn off the cell phone and step away from the video games,” added Weaver.

Faculty from the Early Childhood Education program and students from the Veterans Club were also on site to offer encouragement and engage children with books.

“I work with children and I thought the book drive was a great way to get kids to read," said Brittany Dosso, a student ambassador. "Our interaction with them encouraged their interest in reading. The MLK Day of Service meant a lot to me because it feels good to help someone out.”

By day’s end, all the books were donated—some to children whom, according to Weaver, have never owned a book.

“There are 365 days a year, there should be at least one day where we designate a day of service to others,” said Weaver.