Penn State

To honor MLK, Penn State students help give voice to prisoners

“When Silence Becomes Betrayal” is the theme for Penn State’s 32 annual Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration Week. Events during the week are designed to help open conversations and encourage people to speak out.
“When Silence Becomes Betrayal” is the theme for Penn State’s 32 annual Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration Week. Events during the week are designed to help open conversations and encourage people to speak out. adrey@centredaily.com

Martin Luther King Jr. wrote a letter to clergymen in 1963. He wrote, from Birmingham Jail, “I am in Birmingham because injustice is here.”

If King’s words were never read, or if society just pushed him aside as a criminal, the course of United State history may have been different.

But King spoke up over and over again.

The Penn State Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration committee is asking students and community members to speak up, too.

At a table in the HUB-Robeson Center, passerbys were invited to recall and share a time they spoke up, helped others and didn’t worry about repercussions.

The MLK committee and the Restorative Justice Initiative partnered together to share letters from incarcerated individuals who wanted to share their stories.

The letters were written from inmates in the Pennsylvania prison system. They wrote about what happened, their experience and mistakes.

The inmates were looking to be understood, heard and forgiven, so paper was available for the public to write back to them. Letters were filled with words of encouragement and hope that despite mistakes, the inmates can still be good people and productive citizens.

Penn State graduate student Anay Pope hoped the project would remind everyone that anyone could be just one mistake away from prison. One mistake doesn’t make someone any less deserving of being heard and receiving help, she said.

The letter writing station will remain open through Thursday, as Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration Week activities continue at Penn State through Friday.

  Comments