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Sacramento State Celebrates 50th Anniversary of MLK Visit, Speech

The State Hornet / Sacramento State

On October 16, 1967, civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. spoke about racial inequality to a crowd of about 7,000 students at Sacramento State College, now named Sacramento State.

The State Hornet / Sacramento State

It was 50 years ago today that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. came to Sacramento for a speech at Sacramento State College, or as it's known today, Sacramento State. The campus is marking the anniversary with a daylong celebration today.

"Our theme is Empathy, Equality and Esteem,” says Sac State's Marcellene Watson-Derbigny who helped plan today's events. She says Dr. King's 1967 speech was about the future of the civil rights movement.

"And I think, for me, what embodies the thrust of his talk to our campus, is just the importance of equality and promoting equality for all people and continuing that fight,” says Watson-Derbigny.

She says today's commemoration gives the campus an opportunity to advocate for civil and human rights at a time when they’re needed the most.

"I think it gives us a continuous charge to make sure that all communities throughout the world achieve equity, diversity and a sense of belonging and inclusion,” says Watson-Derbigny. “And that we continue to live out his dream by carrying forward that mission every day."

"There's a lot of excitement, it's all over campus,” says Watson-Derbigny. “It's been incorporated into class assignments. Students are active participants in the day as volunteers as well as attendees. And we're really excited to promote this discourse and the importance of empathy and equality."

During his 35-minute address in Sacramento 50 years ago, titled “The Civil Rights Movement of the Future,” Dr. King talked about the millions of African Americans who were unemployed, experiencing inequality in education, and living in terrible housing conditions. He also mentioned that 58 black churches in Mississippi had been torched over the previous 18 months.

Some of today's events include: a gospel music concert, a unity march, panel discussions, the dedication of a plaque and a keynote address by PBS talk-show host and author Tavis Smiley.

Here's today's schedule:

9:30 - 10:45 a.m., University Union, Redwood Room – Brunch to benefit student scholarships features motivational speaker Inky Johnson. Sold out.

11 - 11:50 a.m. University Union, Hinde Auditorium – Screening of 33-minute documentary film The March (1964), about the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, where King spoke. Roberto Pomo, professor of theater, will introduce Richard Blue, brother of the late filmmaker James Blue.

Noon - 12:45 p.m., University Union Ballroom – Keynote speaker Tavis Smiley discusses “Empathy and Economic Inequality.” The PBS talk-show host is author of Death of a King: The Real Story of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Final Year.

2:15 - 3 p.m., University Union, Redwood Room – “The Civil Rights Movement” panel discussion moderated by Clayborne Carson, professor of history at Stanford University and director of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute.

3:15 - 4 p.m., University Union, Redwood Room – Student workshops.

4:15 - 5 p.m., University Union, Lobby Suite – Student docents lead tours of the one-day exhibit “Fifty Years Ago Today at Sacramento State: The Future of the Civil Rights Movement.” The exhibit is open 9 a.m. - 8 p.m.

4:15 - 5 p.m. University Union Ballroom – “Empathy, Empowerment, and Praise,” a gospel concert featuring the MLK Community Choir and JJ Hairston. 

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