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Black History Month: Tribute to peaceful resistance in State College

Wednesday, February 1, marks the beginning of Black History Month, and we'll be highlighting some of the stories from around the commonwealth all month long.

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — Today marks the beginning of Black History Month, and we'll be highlighting some of the stories from around the commonwealth all month long.

Newswatch 16's Chris Keating traveled to Centre County to learn more about State College's Martin Luther King Jr. Plaza.

Gary Abdullah looks on at the Martin Luther King Jr. Plaza along South Fraser Street in State College. Displayed there are pictures of Dr. King's visit to Penn State University, where he spoke to more than 8,000 students just two years after his March on Washington.

"The plaza is a commemoration officially of Dr. King's visit to Penn State and the Happy Valley region in 1965," explained Gary Abdullah, the MLK Plaza planning committee.

The plaza extends the entire block. Riddled throughout the plaza is a list of Dr. King's accomplishments and historical moments during the Civil Rights movement.

It serves as a history lesson about Dr. King's peaceful resistance.

"As you go through the plaza, you can read about the principles behind civil rights that evolved into affirmative action that evolved into diversity, equity, and inclusion," added Abdullah.

Abdullah has been a State College resident since the 70s. He is on the committee that oversees the MLK Plaza, which was built in 2017.

He highlighted the significance of Dr. King's peaceful resistance to racism and oppression.

"Provide resistance for your cause and not engage in violence and not start a fight," explained Abdullah. "If you don't start a fight, there doesn't have to be a fight."

"You can advocate for yourself in a peaceful way," said Chiluvya Zulu, the Director of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging in the State College borough.

She says it is great to have a space like this for students from all different walks of life to see.

"Really great to have students that are coming in, students that are here, and community members know he came here because he thought it was important to be here, and he talked to people, and his legacy lives on," added Zulu.

Folks tell Newswatch 16 they hope people from different backgrounds can view the plaza as a space for everyone.

"This is not a black people facility, it is not a black people celebration. The King Plaza celebrates that throughout its development, there was black, white, and brown people who were coming together to celebrate the principles and put together the space," explained Zulu.

"This is a space to highlight what Martin Luther King stood for. Especially in his "I have a dream" speech. He wanted us to come together. He had a dream that we were going to stand together as brothers and sisters and create a community that felt inclusive to all," added Abdullah.

If you can't make it to State College to see the plaza, the borough offers a virtual tour online here.

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