Civil rights icon Bridges highlights Martin Luther King Commemoration

January 09, 2013

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- The 28th Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration at Penn State’s University Park campus will celebrate the life of the civil rights leader with the theme of “Let Justice Lead and Freedom Roar!”

Among the events scheduled to commemorate King’s life and work, civil rights icon Ruby Bridges will speak at the Evening Celebration at 7 p.m. on Jan. 23 in Schwab Auditorium. Tickets are required but free and can be picked up at Eisenhower Auditorium, Bryce Jordan Center Ticket Office, the HUB-Robeson Center or Penn State Downtown Theatre Center.

At age 6 in 1960, Bridges became the first black student to attend William Frantz Public School in New Orleans. Her march into the school came at a cost. She and her family were subjected to intimidation, her father lost his job and angry parents pulled their children from the school. But it became a landmark moment in civil rights history. She has received numerous honors for the history she made as a child and her continued work to promote values of tolerance and respect through the Ruby Bridges Foundation. For more on Bridges:

The theme for the 2013 MLK Commemoration is represented by a poster design created by senior graphic design major Arielle Goft of Springfield, Pa. The image depicts a drum major leading a diverse crowd with the words of the theme emerging prominently against a rainbow. The design evokes King's 1968 sermon in which he said, "If you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice, say that I was a drum major for peace. I was a drum major for righteousness. And all of the other shallow things will not matter."

"When I initially heard the theme for this year's MLK commemoration, I thought it was powerful and inspirational. I also knew that the real challenge would be visualizing the 'Roar' through imagery," said Goft. "Once I found that passage [from King's sermon], I knew the drum major was the perfect representation of this year's theme. I started drawing the drum major, trying to make him as energetic and dynamic as possible. After many drafts, I incorporated the crowd to show him actually leading a large group of people of all races and genders."

View a large version of the image here.

Goft's design was chosen from among 15 created by students in professor Lanny Sommese's Graphic Design 400 course. All of the student submissions will be on display from Jan. 11-Feb. 28 in the entry lobby of Pattee Library.

"After seeing my poster, I hope that people walk away feeling inspired by the words of Dr. King and moved to lead others on the path of justice and freedom," Goft said. "I respect all the work that the planning committee does to celebrate the life and teachings of Dr. King and I'm honored that they chose my design to represent the 2013 MLK Commemoration."

A campus and community committee and student commemoration committee jointly selected this year's theme to echo King's words and works.

"Justice and freedom were of course hallmark ideas of Dr. King's messages and works throughout his life," said Marcus Whitehurst, associate vice provost for Educational Equity and chair of the MLK Commemoration Committee. "It is critical that we all continue to honor and carry forward those messages, to keep striving for those things we believe in and make a difference in the pursuit of justice and freedom in our own ways."

The 2013 MLK Commemoration will kick off with the sold-out annual Forum on Black Affairs Martin Luther King Memorial Banquet on Jan. 15. The keynote speaker will be Samuel C. Thompson Jr., professor of law and director of the Center for the Study of Mergers and Acquisitions at Penn State Law. Thompson teaches courses in mergers and acquisitions and tax law, including corporate taxation and international taxation. Previously he was the dean of the University of Miami School of Law; professor of law at the UCLA School of Law and the University of Virginia School of Law; visiting professor of law at the Yale Law School; and associate professor of law at the Northwestern University School of Law. He has been voted Teacher of the Year by students at the law schools at Miami and UCLA.

Thompson also served as a partner at Schiff, Hardin & Waite law firm in Chicago in the U. S. Treasury's Office of Tax Legislative Counsel and International Tax Counsel which included two years as the tax policy adviser to the South African Ministry of Finance in Pretoria, South Africa. He served as a captain in the United States Marine Corps and as an undergraduate at West Chester, helped organize of the school’s first NAACP Chapter, and while in Law School at the University of Pennsylvania, Thompson worked on a civil rights project in Leland, Miss.

Monday, Jan. 21, is Martin Luther King Day, and though students have a holiday from classes, many will be committing their day to serving the community during the annual Day of Service from 9 a.m.-4 p.m., beginning in Heritage Hall of the HUB-Robeson Center. Community members can sign up to volunteer at A DJ will entertain throughout the day in the HUB as part of the event.

Alpha Phi Alpha will host an oratorical competition at 6:30 p.m. on Jan. 22 in 100 Life Sciences Building, in which participants will give speeches reflecting King's legacy. King was a member of Alpha Phi Alpha as a graduate student at Boston University in 1952.

Events on Thursday, Jan. 24, include a community showcase at 5:30 p.m. in Pasquerilla Spiritual Center, followed at 6:30 p.m. by a Peace March and concluding with a Social Justice Forum at 7:30 p.m., also at the Pasquerilla Center.

Whitehurst lauded the members of the MLK Commemoration Student Planning Committee, including co-executive directors Andrea Hernandez and Lerell Richards, for their work to bring together an array of events to commemorate King's life.

"Andrea, Lerell and all the students who have planned and coordinated this year's events have done an outstanding job in finding ways for us to honor Martin Luther King's legacy," Whitehurst said. "It is inspiring to see the commitment, creativity and hard work they put into this commemoration. They show that Dr. King's life continues to make a profound impact from generation to generation."

For a full schedule of events and additional information, visit Follow the commemoration on Twitter at and "Like" the Facebook page at

  • The poster representing the 2013 Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration at Penn State's University Park campus was designed by senior graphic design major Arielle Goft.

    IMAGE: Penn State

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated January 15, 2013