Carnegie Mellon celebrates Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Credit: Alexander Moser/ Credit: Alexander Moser/

Martin Luther King Jr. Day, falling annually on the third Monday of January, represents more than just a three-day weekend to the Carnegie Mellon campus. Observed nationwide since 2000, the holiday encourages people to reflect on the past, specifically the Civil Rights Movement, and to consider King’s messages in the context of current times. This year, Carnegie Mellon is hosting a range of events in observance of the holiday and of the legacy of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

With subjects ranging from King’s life to social justice along with activities encompassing both formal lectures and poetry slams, Carnegie Mellon’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebrations offer something for everyone. Events begin at 12:30 p.m., and afternoon classes have been canceled so that students and faculty can participate.

“It lets people go to the events in a frame of mind that is relaxing and not stressful and to get something out of the events,” said Natalie French, a junior civil and environmental engineering major. “It is really important to be aware and able to participate.”

Today’s activities kick off at 12:30 p.m. with a School of Drama tribute to King and diversity at Carnegie Mellon in the University Center (12:30–1:30 p.m., Rangos Hall). Afterwards, there will be a presentation of the “Martin Luther King Jr. Day Writing Awards” (1:30–2:30 p.m., McConomy Auditiorium), in which students from Carnegie Mellon and local high schools will share their “personal narratives dealing with individual experiences with racial difference and discrimination.”

The students are recipients of writing awards sponsored by the Carnegie Mellon Creative Writing Program, Student Affairs, and the Office of the President.” A more informal Poetry Slam will occur in King’s honor at 7 p.m. in Skibo Coffeehouse. “The events featuring the arts and people expressing their own experiences are what I am excited about,” said Adelaide Agyemang, a College of Fine Arts first-year. “To be honest, that is where I feel [King’s] legacy really resonates.”
The arts are not the only way that Carnegie Mellon seeks to engage the campus community with King’s memory. A keynote address, titled ‘The Economic Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’ will be presented by Dr. Julianne Malveaux at 5 p.m. in Rangos Hall.

Malveaux is currently the president of Bennett College for Women. According to her website,, she is “recognized for her progressive and insightful observations.”

Laura Hammel, a first-year math major, plans to attend, “I had never really considered the economics of the civil rights movement.... It is cool to be at a school where these sorts of opportunities are available.” Presenting alongside her are student speakers Maggie Soderholm, a third year philosophy and statistics double-major, and Appiah Adomako, a Heinz graduate student. The address will be followed by a reception.

Through events such as “The Drum Major Instinct: a Social Justice Experiment,” “Community Conversation: Replacing Despair and Hopelessness with Hope and Opportunity,” and a candlelight procession in honor of the civil rights movement, participants have the opportunity to consider new ways to promote civil rights within the Pittsburgh community.

“The Drum Major Instinct: a Social Justice Experiment” features a lunch and panel hosted from 1–3 p.m. in Peter/Wright/McKenna. The focus is on motivating community members to take action through “an interactive experience that will include an Oxfam ‘World Hunger Banquet,’ a panel dialogue with local young Pittsburgh leaders who are creating change in the city and an open discussion with students about their engagement in social justice issues.”

Meanwhile, “Community Conversation: Replacing Despair and Hopelessness with Hope and Opportunity” also features a panel discussion relating to modern civil rights work and racial equality (2:30–4 p.m., McConomy Auditorium).

From 12:30 to 4:30 p.m., the Carnegie Mellon Bookstore and Hunt Library will also be featuring relevant literary works, documentaries will be screening in the first and second floor lobbies of the University Center, and artwork by the 4th grade class at Lindon Academy will be displayed in the first floor of the University Center.

All events are open to Carnegie Mellon students and the greater Pittsburgh community free of charge.