Campus News

View Year

Juniata Continues Civil Rights Theme at Commencement, Hosting Speaker Yolanda King

(Posted April 18, 2005)

Yolanda King

HUNTINGDON, Pa. -- Yolanda King, eldest daughter of Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King, will receive an honorary doctor of humane letters degree and deliver the commencement address, "Living the Dream" at Juniata College, at 2 p.m., Saturday, May 14 during Juniata's 127th commencement ceremony.

King's address will be the crowning event in a yearlong celebration of civil rights at the college. In the fall, John Lewis, civil rights pioneer and U.S. Representative from Georgia, spoke at Juniata. In March, the college held a reunion for eight of the 18 Juniata activists who traveled to Selma and Montgomery, Ala. to work for civil rights only to have some of their group beaten and arrested in violent encounters with Alabama police. In addition Juniata also premiered a documentary film at the march event, "Charles Moore: I Fight With My Camera," which detailed the photography of Charles Moore, a Life photojournalist who captured indelible images of Martin Luther King and images of the Juniata activists in moments of violence in Alabama.

"Yolanda King's activism for civil rights speaks directly to our educational theme for this year and her speech should be an illuminating educational experience for our students as they head out into a diverse global community," says Juniata President Thomas R. Kepple Jr.

In addition, Betty Ann Cherry, professor emerita of history at Juniata, will receive an honorary doctor of humane letters degree at the ceremony.

King is an internationally renowned motivational speaker and actress whose recent book, "Open My Eyes, Open My Soul" outlines her fierce dedication to raise awareness and increase understanding about the importance of diversity.

King started her career as an actress and has maintained her performing career, appearing in films and television, as well as theatre. In addition to many stage roles, King has played Rosa Parks, the seamstress who memorably refused to move to the back of a Montgomery, Ala. bus, in the NBC movie "King." She also played Malcolm X's wife, Betty Shabazz in the film "Death of a Prophet" and Reena Evers, the daughter of assassinated civil rights leader Medgar Evers in the film "Ghosts of Mississippi."

Her most recent theatrical production is "Achieving the Dream," which chronicles many of the highlights of the civil rights movement. In addition to acting, King has established a thriving career as a motivational speaker and teacher. In 1990, she started Higher Ground Productions, an organization dedicated to guiding people to find greater inner peace, to celebrate diversity and to embrace unity.

"Until we learn to live together in peace, no one is free," she says.

She earned a bachelor's degree from Smith College in Northampton, Mass and went on to earn a master's degree in theatre from New York University. She established herself as a stage actress in New York during and after her graduate studies.

At the same time, she began accepting speaking engagements, eager to share a message on the importance of embracing diversity and our common humanity. She has spoken at many Fortune 500 corporations, religious and civic events, educational and professional conferences and at colleges and universities.

She has received numerous accolades and awards, including being named one of the Outstanding Young Women of America. She is a member of the board of directors of the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change Inc. (which is the official national memorial to Martin Luther King) and was Founding Director of the King Center's cultural affairs program.

She also serves on the partnership Council for Habitat for Humanity and is a sponsor of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom. She also is a member of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and holds a lifetime membership in the NAACP. She holds an honorary doctor of humane letters degree from Marywood University.

Click here to go to the commencement website.

Contact John Wall at wallj@juniata.edu or (814) 641-3132 for more information.