Good afternoon! I am very pleased to reveal and explain the theme that the 2019-2020 Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemoration Student Planning Committee has selected. After assessing the critical time we are in today, we have decided on a theme we are proud of and are excited to bring to Penn State.
Theme: The Story of U.S: Exposing the Unarmed Truth
Last year’s theme, Where Do We Go From Here: A Tradition of Resistance questioned our direction as a Penn State community. It challenged us to look at the blueprint laid in front of us by civil rights activists across the globe, past and present, and use it to inform what steps we take next in the revolutionary journey that is social justice. Since we were asked this pivotal question, consequently, we deemed it imperative to provide an answer.
From the White House, we are being told not to believe our eyes, not to trust our ears. We have been forewarned that unflattering news regarding the well-being of this nation’s people, its actions, its highest office, is “fake”. We are witnessing the corruption of fact and reality. Yet, this phenomenon did not start in 2017. It is the basis of why in our schools we are not taught the facts about the origins, the priorities, the doings of these United States. It underscored the “racial scientists” who found any inhumane way to prove the founding fathers unhypocritical. The truth of marginalized folks in this country has been manipulated, mutilated, confiscated, and erased to further disenfranchise and beyond. To recognize the diverse and expansive realities of disadvantaged people is to confront one’s own privilege, power and oppression. And we have an idea why it is in the favor of the privileged to deteriorate the truths of those without.
“In a time of deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act,” said George Orwell. This is the act we choose to take on. Radical truthtelling is immune from holding up power and privilege. It gives space to those whose truths have not been, and often kept from, being told. We choose to tell The Story of U.S., to be unyielding about the history of these United States and all who were involved in them, not just those who write our history books. This theme encompasses all who have a story to tell, which is every student at Penn State, every person in this country and world. We invite this community to not only confront the injustices of this country, but to get to know who they are and what story they have to tell.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality.” Dr. King preached of peace, of love, of radical truthtelling that would free us. As activists have been murdered, as social movements have been met with brutality and oppression, as political prisoners have been exiled or imprisoned to this day, we recognize that violence in response to harsh reality is not new. Therefore, we make a conscious effort to acknowledge the truth with openness and understanding. It is necessary that we are not met with judgment, but with acceptance, as our stories all have space in this world.
This is not a theme that only cares about the past. It is timely for our present and recognizes that our story is not over. We must tell our stories, our truths into 2020 and after. We see all of Penn State in this theme, and we need Penn State to see us.
-Nyla Holland, Executive Director 2019-2020