Half a century has passed since Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. graced Sacramento State with his personal power and transformative oratory, but a celebration on Monday, Oct. 16, of the great civil rights leader’s 1967 visit reawakened some of the spirit that infused his campus appearance.

The University reverberated with energy generated by events meant to bring King’s visit out of the hazy realm of things remembered and into the bright light of a current shared experience. The gathered throngs who participated in the 50th anniversary celebration did so with community leaders showing the way and with their own feet, voices, and hearts.

Noted King scholar, lecturer, and PBS host Tavis Smiley captured the emotion of the occasion with his oratory, drawing combined crowds of more than 3,000 to noontime and evening keynote addresses. A Unity March, a movie screening, workshops, and a panel discussion featuring another King stalwart, Stanford Professor Clayborne Carson, helped turn the day into a soaring platform meant to carry a message of empathy, equality, and justice – themes carried with such force by King throughout his career.

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A packed house was on hand Tuesday, Nov. 3, as Sacramento State celebrated the grand opening of its Martin Luther King Jr. Center with live music, appetizers, and words of encouragement and welcome from University and local officials, as well as students and staff from the center.

Located in Lassen Hall Room 2200, the student-led center provides an oasis of support and cultural legacy experiences to foster student success. The center also promotes campus community through services such as student advocacy, leadership development, peer support, Sankofa talks, and coordinated educational equity services.

“This is a game-changer,” President Robert S. Nelsen said during welcome remarks. “This is an opportunity where students can get together, help each other, mentor each other, and be successful.”

To the students, he said, “Make this place your place, where you feel at home.”

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The Sacramento State Martin Luther King Jr. Scholars Center is scheduled to open soon as a part of the Student Academic Success and Educational Equity Programs Unit adjacent to Lassen Hall 2205. The center will offer scholars many components, including leadership development, a research connection with faculty, and retreats where scholars can pair up with alumni leaders who have expertise in a range of career-related areas.

Associate Vice President Marcellene Watson-Derbigny has provided the foundation for the project through the work of the Campus Educational Equity Committee and the newly formed Task Force on African American Student Success. Tina Jordan will lead an introduction of the center to students, faculty, and staff through various events and activities offered during the fall semester. Additional information about the program can be found at

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