The 43rd annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Banquet was held on Monday at the Penn Stater Hotel and Conference Center to celebrate the life and legacy of the late civil rights leader.
More than 500 people attended the event sponsored by the Forum on Black Affairs at Penn State. The night included speeches by Penn State President Eric Barron and Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf. But it was the passionate and emotional speech from Carlos Wiley, director of the university’s Paul Robeson Cultural Center, that highlighted the event.
Wiley’s speech centered on the theme of the evening, “The Mountain Top Has Not Been Reached,” and delivered a powerful message that focused on King’s dream that his “four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but the content of their character.”
We are the people that will make that change. We are the people that will help get to the promised land.
Carlos Wiley, director of the university’s Paul Robeson Cultural Center
“We are the people that will make that change. We are the people that will help get to the promised land,” Wiley said. “There’s no other way to look at it and we are in a time of urgency, fierce urgency.”
His message of hope, unity and equality was followed by a performance from Roots of Life, a performing arts ensemble made up of State College Area School District students.
As words echoing King’s vision of equality were joyously read, the dance troupe made its way to the stage. Accompanied by thunderous West African rhythms played on drums, the dancers performed a choreographed number as spoken word captivated the audience, who stood and applauded when the uplifting performance came to an end.
Following the event, Wolf spoke about the importance of the celebration and what the message of the evening means for society progressing.
“This is a reminder that we’ve got to do this and we’ve got to commitment ourselves, reaffirm our commitment to the values of fairness and equity and respect everyday of the year, wherever we are,” Wolf said. “And that’s more important now than I think it’s been in my lifetime.”