Celebrating the legacy of Martin Luther King

​​29th annual celebration on campus to feature Brown School’s Jason Purnell; Sylvester Brown to receive Rosa Parks Award

The 29th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Celebration at Washington University in St. Louis will recognize members of the St. Louis and university community who continue to advance King’s message through service and leadership.

Jason Purnell
Jason Purnell

Jason Purnell, PhD, assistant professor at the Brown School, will deliver the keynote address at the event that begins at 7 p.m. Monday, Jan. 18, in Graham Chapel.

Purnell leads “For the Sake of All,” a landmark multidisciplinary study that documents economic, educational and health disparities in the St. Louis. Now in its second phase, the project is working to implement programs to improve the health and well-beings of African-Americans.

Kiland Sampa, a young tennis star who was paralyzed in a swimming pool accident in 2013, will be honored as the Martin Luther King Jr. Youth Service Award Recipient. Sampa volunteers at Ranken Jordan Pediatric Bridge Hospital, supporting other young children with physical challenges and helping staff. He also is the grandson of education librarian Cheryl Holland.

“Sampa embodies the spirit of Dr. King’s service to humanity,” said Rudolph Clay, chair of the MLK commemoration committee and head of diversity initiatives and outreach services at Washington University Libraries. “The committee recognizes that Kiland Sampa is meeting a challenge articulated by Dr. King: ‘Here is an opportunity for me to celebrate like never before, my own power, my own ability to get myself to do whatever is necessary.’”

Sylvester Brown Jr.

The commemoration also will include remarks from Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton and Provost Holden Thorp, PhD, executive vice chancellor for academic affairs and the Rita Levi-Montalcini Distinguished University Professor, as well as performances from Black Anthology and Orchestrating Diversity, an urban youth orchestra.

Writer Sylvester Brown Jr., founder of the Sweet Potato Project, also will be honored with the Rosa L. Parks Award. Founded in 2012, the Sweet Potato Project teaches young entrepreneurs in North St. Louis to grow and distribute local produce. The project’s students also explore careers in technical education, culinary arts and entrepreneurship; learn financial literacy and meet with small-business owners.

The event is free and open to the public. A reception will follow at the Danforth University Center. Free parking is available in the Danforth University Center garage.

Sherman James to deliver MLK Jr. lecture at medical school

The Office of Diversity Programs at the School of Medicine will present its annual Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Lecture at 4 p.m. Monday, Jan. 18, in the Eric P. Newman Education Center, 320 S. Euclid Ave.

The guest speaker will be social epidemiologist Sherman James, PhD, a research professor of epidemiology and African-American studies at Emory University. The title of his lecture is “The Black Image in the White Mind: Implications for Achieving Racial Equity in America.”

Sherman James

Before joining Emory, James served as the inaugural Susan B. King Professor of Public Policy at Duke University from 2003-2014. He also held teaching positions at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and the University of Michigan. He earned his PhD in psychology from Washington University in 1973.

James is the originator of the John Henryism hypothesis, which asserts that repetitive, high-effort coping with social and economic adversity is a major contributor to the well-known heightened risk for hypertension and related cardiovascular diseases in poor and working-class African-Americans. He received a five-year research career development award, followed by more than 20 years of continuous funding, from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), to support his work on this subject.

James was elected to the National Academy of Medicine (formerly the Institute of Medicine) in 2000. He was named a distinguished alumnus of Washington University in 2008, and he currently serves on the university’s National Advisory Council for Arts & Sciences.

The event is free and open to the public. To RSVP,  call the Office of Diversity Programs at 314-362-6854 or email mpatterson@wustl.edu.

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