Penn State leadership joins local Virtual March on Washington

August 28, 2020

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Penn State leadership participated in a locally organized 2020 Virtual March on Washington Aug. 28, on the 57th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s historic March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963.

Organized by the State College Borough’s Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Plaza planning committee, the event featured pre-recorded remarks from both Penn State President Eric J. Barron and Vice Provost for Educational Equity Marcus Whitehurst. The local virtual march was an independent event, but was held in tandem with a national 2020 Virtual March on Washington organized by Rev. Al Sharpton.

The virtual event was livestreamed online and recorded for later broadcast on both C-NET and WPSU. In addition to Barron and Whitehurst’s remarks, the event featured reflections from local activists and community leaders alongside musical and spoken word performances aimed to inspire and celebrate King’s legacy of fighting for racial justice.

“I was a teenager at the time of Dr. King’s historic march on Washington, and I remember vividly the power of his words and the beauty of his dream for racial justice, equity and equality – a dream that, despite the progress made over the last 57 years, still has yet to be fully realized,” Barron said. “Dr. King remains one of my personal heroes, and Penn State as an institution of higher education is fully dedicated to advancing diversity, equity and inclusion, both within our own community and beyond. It is an honor to lend my voice to remembering, honoring and continuing the vital work of Dr. King during these tumultuous times.”

Barron’s remarks touched on Penn State’s ongoing efforts in support of diversity, equity and inclusion, including the formation of a Select Penn State Presidential Commission on Bias and Community Safety, the ongoing work of the Task Force on Policing and Communities of Color, a full review of the Student Code of Conduct and the implementation of bias training and coursework for all faculty and students. Additional information about these and other initiatives is available on Penn State’s Action Together website.

Whitehurst said institutions of higher education have long played an important role in the struggle for civil rights, and that is imperative for institutions like Penn State to continue working to advance greater diversity, equity and inclusion.

“If you look back through history, many of the change agents years ago working in support of civil rights leaders were, in fact, college students,” Whitehurst said. “We believe that, as an international, top-tier research university, it is important for us to support efforts to improve the society in which we all live. As an institution of higher education, it is our goal to educate the next generation of leaders, including through exposing them to new ways of thinking, learning and understanding differences. Here, we are proud to take part in a conversation with the next generation of leaders who will continue the efforts to realize Dr. King’s dream of racial justice.”

Whitehurst also noted that Penn State will continue to advance this conversation within the University community on Sept. 8 with the second installment of the ongoing Toward Racial Equity roundtable series. The conversation will feature a diverse representation of Penn State leaders and students discussing their experiences within a predominately white University community, with the aim of fostering greater understanding of the experiences of people of color at Penn State.

Gary Abdullah -- a Penn State alumnus, retired University employee and member of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Plaza planning committee – said Penn State has an important, ongoing role to play in addressing racism, bias and community safety. 

“We truly are a town and gown community, so to have Penn State leadership joining us in support of this event is wonderful,” Abdullah said. 

Abdullah said events such as this are important as part of continuing work and conversation crucial to advancing King’s dream. “Resistance does work and resistance does matter,” he said. “But what we’ve learned from history is that it can’t just be a flash in the pan. After the noisy protests, there has to be a lot of quiet work.”

Last Updated April 15, 2021