#BlackLivesMatter co-founders to speak at Penn for MLK symposium

Two co-founders of the #BlackLivesMatter movement will speak at Penn next week as part of the University’s 21st Annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemorative Symposium on Social Change.

Held each year, the Symposium celebrates King’s life and legacy with a slate of programs and activities. It kicks off on the MLK holiday, Monday, Jan. 18, with a day of service and events on campus and in the Philadelphia community, and continues through Friday, Jan. 29.

#BlackLivesMatter’s Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi will join Camille Charles, a professor of sociology, education, and Africana studies at Penn, in conversation at the annual Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Lecture in Social Justice on Thursday, Jan. 21, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, 3680 Walnut St. Sponsored by the Center for Africana Studies and the Annenberg School for Communication along with the Office of the President, the event is free and open to the public.

Charles says she’s excited to bring the #BlackLivesMatter leaders to campus because they represent the next generation of civil rights activism.

“We’ve outgrown the methods and messages of King’s era,” says Charles, who is also director of the Center for Africana Studies. “#BlackLivesMatter speaks to the issues that matter to the current generation in a way that resonates with our young people.”

The full calendar of Symposium events and information is available at the MLK Symposium website.

Robert Carter, associate director of the African-American Resource Center (AARC), and AARC staff assistant Colleen Winn co-chair the Symposium executive planning committee. The AARC’s signature program will feature School of Social Policy & Practice Dean John Jackson discussing “Love, Race, and Invisibility in a World of ‘Us and Them’ on Thursday, Jan. 28, at 6 p.m. at Penn Hillel, 215 South 39th St.

Valerie Allen, director of AARC, says the programs and workshops planned during this symposium “will assist in our ability to think critically about and act thoughtfully in response to current events.”

University offices are closed and there are no classes on the MLK holiday, but many members of the Penn community choose to make their day off a “day on” of volunteering. 

The day of service at Penn will begin with an 8:30 a.m. breakfast for volunteers in the Hall of Flags at Houston Hall. Onsite service projects include creating books on tape to bolster youth literacy, making tutus and superhero capes for children at local daycare centers, and preparing care packages for West Philadelphia area shelters, nursing homes, hospitals, and charities.

Complimentary parking for volunteers will be available on campus at Lot #19 (Northeast corner of 34th and Chestnut streets) and the adjacent Lot #39 (33rd and Ludlow streets.)

Volunteers can sign up to help out with community beautification service projects to clean and paint two West Philadelphia elementary schools. Free transportation will be provided to both sites.

The Symposium is not only a time to serve; it is also an occasion to mark the service of Penn-affiliated individuals and community members in making a difference in the lives of others. On Wednesday, Jan. 20, at 6 p.m., the 2016 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Involvement Recognition Awards will be bestowed on three community members and two people from Penn.

John McCoy, registration supervisor in the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania Emergency Department, is the recipient of the Faculty/Staff Award; Michelle Rungamirai Munyikwa, a fourth-year MD/Ph.D. student at the Perelman School of Medicine, is the winner of the Penn student award; Alexa Grabelle and Greg Bucceroni will receive Community Awards; and Sheila Sydnor, principal of Penn Alexander School, will be honored with the Community Education Award.

They will be recognized at the MLK Interfaith Commemoration and Awards ceremony in Houston Hall’s Bodek Lounge.

In a departure from past years, the AARC’s annual “Jazz for King” program will be held off campus. It will begin at 6 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 29, at the African-American Museum at 701 Arch St.