MLK Celebration Gala Honors Martin Luther King Jr. and his beliefs on the importance of genuine education

Following a week of events across the MIT campus, members of the university community gathered at the Boston Marriott Kendall Square ballroom on Saturday evening to honor the life and impact of Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorating the 50th year of this tradition at MIT, the gala program revolved around a particular line from King’s essay, “The Purpose of Education,” written during his time at Morehouse College:

“Intelligence plus character — that is the goal of true education.”

Taking the stage as the evening’s master of ceremonies was Senior Myles Noel, who extended a warm welcome to all attendees. Minister DiOnetta Jones Crayton, a former MIT official, delivered the invocation, urging the audience to embrace the “fiery urgency of now.” MIT President Sally Kornbluth then delivered her speech.

Kornbluth acknowledged the declining focus on diversity and inclusion efforts at various institutions, reaffirming her commitment to these initiatives by emphasizing the importance of maintaining and strengthening them. She highlighted MIT’s increased diversity and excellence while honoring the late Paul Parravano, a long-serving member on the MLK Celebration Committee, presenting his family with the 50th Anniversary Lifetime Achievement Award.

Subsequently, individuals at the event shared personal stories and reflections. Zina Queen, an office manager in the Department of Political Science, highlighted her family’s long-standing ties to MIT, stretching across generations. Senior Tamea Cobb emphasized the responsibility that MIT graduates have in utilizing their skills for the greater good, underscoring the connection between education and service.

Graduate student Austin K. Cole ’24 addressed the Israel-Hamas conflict and the role of the MIT administration. Several attendees stood in solidarity with Cole as he called for a focus on relationship-building and mutual understanding to counteract violence.

The Gala honored Professor Clarence Williams for his dedicated service to the Institute, recognizing his significant contributions as an assistant to MIT presidents, director of the Office of Minority Education, and mentor to numerous students. In his closing remarks, incoming vice president for equity and inclusion Karl Reid ’84, SM ’85, urged the audience to follow Williams’ example of demonstrating excellence and respect.

Civil rights activist Janet Moses delivered the keynote address, highlighting her involvement in the civil rights movement and the founding of the Algebra Project with her husband, Robert Moses. During her speech, she discussed the development of the carceral state and the disproportionate impact it has on Black individuals. Moses advocated for challenging the status quo and finding joy in the pursuit of justice.

The event also featured original artwork, poetry, and a community-contributed quilt displaying symbols of hope and unity. The quilt, crafted as part of the 50th anniversary celebration, incorporated a poignant line from Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream Speech”:

“One day, all God’s children will have the riches of freedom and the security of justice.”

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