On Monday night, the MLK Plaza Committee hosted a “Pause for Prayer: Honoring the Life and Legacy of MLK” gathering for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at Downtown State College on the occasion of the 54th birthday of his death in 1968.
The rally lasted from 6:05 p.m. to 6:35 p.m. and was followed by a memorial event at 3 Dots Downtown at 7 p.m.
Annemarie Mingo, a member of the Martin Luther King Jr. Plaza Committee, led the opening prayer and welcomed everyone as she paused to pray.
Mingo said pausing in the moment was to “remember his life and celebrate the legacy of Dr. King that we are all a part of,” as it was the minute MLK was murdered.
Next, Barbara Farmer, chair of the Martin Luther King Jr. Plaza Committee, addressed the group.
Farmer expressed her gratitude to the people who took their time to stop and attend the event, and she reaffirmed that the committee intends to provide an opportunity for the community to grow together and create an environment of harmony, love, acceptance and peace in the square.
Ezra Nanes, the mayor of State College, then spoke.
“It was  years since Dr. King was taken from this world for murder,” Nanes said. “We are here, and his spirit is over there.”
After the lighting of a candle for the collective prayer, the music began to play.
King’s last words were “Ben, play ‘Precious Lord’ at the meeting tonight. Play it real pretty.”
He said those words to Ben Branch, a musician who was to lead the music the night King died at a fundraiser.
Pastor Sarah Malone said she remembers the day King died – she was 13 and the trauma still lives in her.
“So many people have died since then,” Malone said. “It’s all because of human hatred, and I ask the Lord to please bring us to a place of healing – to heal this fear of each other.”
Malone said it was the fear of justice that brought King down, and she hopes “one day justice will flow like water and justice like an ever-flowing screen and people will heal from here there”.
Some attendees spoke of their commitment to the State College community to make the place rooted in love, justice, and freedom – to make the community a space where hope can live and become reality.
The closing prayer was based on one of King’s 1953 talks at his home church.
Penn State professor Jo Dumas said she remembers that day 54 years ago and every day after. She remembered the grief she felt and said she wanted to share her grief with people around the world.
“So many people have felt the grief and loss of this wonderful man who dedicated his life to justice,” Dumas said. “[He] struggles to create a beloved community, and he has always struggled to live the “Six [Principles of Nonviolence].'”
King’s principles include: “Nonviolence is a way of life for courageous people”, “Nonviolence seeks to win friendship and understanding”, “Nonviolence seeks to overcome injustice, not people”, “Nonviolence holds that suffering can educate and transform”, “Nonviolence chooses love over hate” and “Nonviolence believes that the universe is on the side of Justice.”
For Iyun Osagie, Osaze Osagie’s mother, she always admired what King stood for.
Osaze, a 29-year-old black man, was killed by a State College police officer on March 20, 2019, when three officers arrived at his apartment to serve a mental health warrant.
Osagie, who suffered from autism and had a history of schizophrenia, reportedly ran towards officers with a knife. After an unsuccessful attempt to deploy a Taser on him, he was reportedly shot dead by Constable M. Jordan Pieniazek.
The three officers involved in the shooting have not been charged.
Sylvester Osagie, Osaze’s father, filed a lawsuit in November 2020 against the State College Borough, and U.S. Middle District Court of Pennsylvania Judge Matthew W. Brann set a long-term trial date in 2022.
“I like the fact that he was non-violent, [and] at the same time, he did not shy away from or shy away from making his point,” Iyun said. “If you’re not nice to your brother and say you love God, the Bible says you’re a liar.”
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