44th Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Banquet draws record attendance

January 17, 2019

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — A record crowd packed the floor of the Bryce Jordan Center on the evening of Jan. 15 to honor civil-rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy at the 44th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Banquet, sponsored by Penn State's Forum on Black Affairs (FOBA).

Planners decided to move this year’s event — held on King’s birthday — to the BJC to accommodate the growing numbers of people who wanted to attend. More than 1,000 people attended, about 300 more than last year’s event held in the Penn Stater Conference Center.

The theme for this year's banquet, which recognized members of the community who make a difference through King’s belief of advancing civil rights through nonviolence and civil disobedience, was "Where Do We Go From Here: A Tradition of Resistance."

“This year’s theme challenges us to think of the change needed in our communities and how we each play a critical role in addressing the fight against injustice,” said FOBA President Stephanie Danette Preston in her remarks. “At a conference I attended many years ago … the speaker challenged listeners to decide where we each stood in the fight for injustice and inequality. She kept coming back to the same question: Are you going to be a movement or a monument?  She went on to explain that monuments, while sturdy, are built for the moment … whereas a movement is an act of change … or a group of people working together to advance a shared political, social or artistic idea. 

“It’s time for each of us to decide: Movement or Monument? No one can tell you what is right or wrong for you but I urge you to think of what you have to offer,” said Preston. “Each of us brings a unique gift to the table, one that can be used to move us forward as a people. We are not alone and must begin to recognize our uniqueness and our strength as a collective and not disparate parts of a whole.”

Essence of Joy at Martin Luther King Jr. Banquet, Jan. 15, 2019

Essence of Joy, conducted by artistic director Gregg Robert Mauroni, performed at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Banquet on Jan. 15, 2019, at Penn State's Bryce Jordan Center.

IMAGE: Laura Waldhier

Penn State President Eric Barron during his remarks talked about resistance as a positive force over the course of the University’s history and of today’s clear need to do even more work toward goals of diversity and inclusion.

“In this day of remembrance of Dr. King and his work, we must resolve as individuals, as groups of individuals, and as a great educational institution, we must resolve to be the counterweight to those that are holding back the many,” said Barron.

He also announced a new initiative at the banquet to name buildings at Innovation Park in honor of Penn State pioneers and innovators, nominated by the deans. Warren Washington, who earned his doctoral degree in meteorology at Penn State in 1964 and went on to become an internationally recognized expert in atmospheric sciences and climate research, will be the first so honored, said Barron. Washington has received several awards honoring his pioneering efforts as a mentor and passionate supporter of individuals, educational programs and outreach initiatives designed to foster a diverse population of scientists.

FOBA presented several awards during the banquet. Lydia Abdullah, retired director of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion for Finance and Business at Penn State, received the 2019 FOBA Humanitarian Award. FOBA created this award in 1985 to annually honor an individual who has provided outstanding service to African-American citizens of Pennsylvania, particularly at any Penn State campus. 

Two students received the Fannie Lou Hamer and W.E.B. DuBois Service Scholarships at the banquet: Anjelyque Easley, a fourth-year landscape architecture major with a Jewish studies minor; and Jeremiah Hardy, a management major in the Smeal College of Business. The scholarships, awarded annually to full-time, degree-seeking Penn State students who are excellent scholars and actively engaged in service to the African-American community, honor the memory of civil-rights leaders Fannie Lou Hamer and W.E.B. DuBois.

Emmanuel Houndo

Violinist Emmanuel “Manny” Houndo played to an appreciative Bryce Jordan Center audience at the 44th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Banquet, held the evening of Jan. 15, 2019. Houndo is a Penn State junior majoring in health policy and administration and music, with a violin focus.

IMAGE: Laura Waldhier

The audience also enjoyed performances by the Essence of Joy choir, conducted by artistic director Gregg Robert Mauroni; Roots of Life, a student performing arts ensemble based out of the State College Area School District, directed by Kikora Franklin, associate professor of theatre and dance; and violinist Emmanuel “Manny” Houndo, a junior majoring in health policy and administration, and music with a violin focus.

The 2019 Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Banquet Committee includes Suzanne Adair, Ashley Adams, Tierra Caldwell, Ellie Chapman, André Culbreath, Teresa Hamilton, Charleon Jeffries, Camille Selden and Banquet Chairperson Carlos Wiley.

The mission of the Forum on Black Affairs is to provide educational opportunities for all citizens and is dedicated to the principle of equality for all people, manifested in a commitment to achieve equal opportunity for Blacks at Penn State.

Last Updated January 21, 2019