This January marks Penn’s 19th annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Symposium on Social Change, a series of events that originated with one Day of Service.
“It has since morphed into what is now comprised of more than two weeks of events and programming that commemorate the life and legacy of Dr. King,” says Valerie Dorsey Allen, director of the African American Resource Center.
The Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Lecture Series in Social Justice has become one of the symposium’s flagship events, drawing in prolific and important figures to discuss issues of social justice, Allen says.
The 13th annual lecture will feature Sherrilyn Ifill, the seventh president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF); and Julián Castro, mayor of San Antonio. It will take place on Wednesday, Jan. 22, from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at the Zellerbach Theatre in the Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts. The event is free and open to the public.
Ifill and Castro will discuss a variety of themes, including race, immigration, voting rights, and African-American and Latino civil rights. Anthea Butler, an associate professor in the Department of Religious Studies and the Department of Africana Studies at Penn, will moderate the discussion.
Among Ifill’s successful litigation with the LDF is the landmark Voting Rights Act case Houston Lawyers’ Association vs. Attorney General of Texas, in which the Supreme Court held that judicial elections are covered by the provisions of section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. She also serves as a professor of law at the University of Maryland, where she has launched several innovative legal offerings, including one of the first legal clinics in the nation focused on removing legal barriers to formerly incarcerated persons seeking to re-enter society.
A critically acclaimed author, Ifill’s book “On the Courthouse Lawn: Confronting the Legacy of Lynching in the 21st Century,” reflects her lifelong engagement in and analysis of issues of race and American public life. Ifill’s scholarly writing has focused on the importance of diversity on the bench.
A 39-year-old San Antonio native, Castro is the youngest mayor of a Top 50 American city. In 2012, he became the first Latino to deliver the keynote address at the Democratic National convention.
As a mayor, Castro has worked to bring a sense of urgency to revitalizing San Antonio’s urban core, including the underserved East Side of San Antonio, by initiating the “Decade of Downtown” and approving a series of incentives to encourage inner city investment. He has also led the city in establishing Café College, a one-stop center offering high-quality guidance on college admissions, financial aid, and standardized test preparation to any student.
The event is co-sponsored by the Center for Africana Studies, the Office of the President, and the Annenberg School for Communication. For more information, visit the Center for African Studies website.