The Franklin Atrium at Pattee Library filled with song the way a balloon fills with breath — lightly and beautifully.
“We shall walk in peace.”
In Nittany blue shirts, side by side, black and white, men and women, the Essence of Joy choir used their voices as instruments, singing songs of faith, but also songs that honored the ideals of Martin Luther King Jr., the spiritual father of the civil rights movement, on the federal holiday devoted to his memory.
More than 100 people packed the atrium, as reverent as if they were at worship.
For the singers, that was a familiar feeling. In March, the choir spent spring break traveling, including a stop at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, where the influential minister was baptized as a child, ordained as a young man, preached to his congregation and was buried after his 1968 assassination.
Elizabeth Peter, a senior in the choir, said the experience shared with her fellow musicians put King’s message into perspective for her.
“We are a family. We are Penn State. We are the dream,” she said, citing King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech.
Across campus, students were working in two rooms at Fisher Hall, sorting donations for the Trash to Treasure sale. The volunteer work was part of the Day of Service planned for the holiday. Many students participated in projects on campus and at nearby nonprofit organizations.
“It’s a good way to get involved,” said Rasha Guerrier, a sophomore studying broadcast journalism.
“We are giving back,” said Yemi Olu, a junior majoring in secondary education and minoring in civic and community engagement.
Penn State had no classes Monday, freeing students to participate in the service projects.
“Dr. King’s most profound and enduring legacy is found in the commitment to public service and the betterment of society that so many have continued to pursue in his name,” said Damon Sims, vice president for student affairs. “Today’s many community-service projects engaging Penn State students offer a wonderful example of that commitment. The future is in the good hands of these students, but so is the present, and I could not be more pleased.”