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Stetson to Host 27th Annual MLK Celebration

Tra Thomas retired from the NFL with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2012.

Retired NFL offensive tackle and DeLand native Tra Thomas will be the keynote speaker at Stetson University’s annual Martin Luther King Breakfast on Monday, Jan. 20.

The breakfast is open to the public and will begin at 9 a.m. at the Rinker Field House in the Hollis Center. Tickets are free for students, faculty and staff, and cost $10 for community members. Cultural Credit is available for undergraduate students.

The speaker will be former Philadelphia Eagles offensive tackle Tra Thomas. Thomas grew up in DeLand, graduated from DeLand High School and played for Florida State University before being drafted into the NFL.

black and white, MLK at March on Washington 1963
Martin Luther King Jr. gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech at the March on Washington in August 1963.

A DeLand park also will be named in Thomas’s honor during the MLK weekend. Eastside Park, at 209 S. Frankfort Ave. near his childhood home, will be renamed the Tra Thomas Park on Sunday, Jan. 19, at 2 p.m., according to the West Volusia Beacon.

On Monday, following the MLK Breakfast, the annual Historic March Downtown will begin at 11 a.m. on Woodland Boulevard in front of Emily Hall and proceed to Earl Brown Park. A community festival will take place there from noon to 4 p.m. with food and live entertainment.

Stetson has hosted the signature breakfast and march since 1993 in honor of the civil rights leader, who was assassinated April 4, 1968, in Memphis at age 39.

A crowd walks down the street with posters.
A crowd turned out for the 2018 MLK Day March in DeLand.

“We are honored to continue our decades-old commitment of hosting the annual MLK Breakfast,” said Savannah-Jane Griffin, executive director of Community Engagement and Inclusive Excellence. “Dr. King had a dream of bringing citizens and stakeholders together to discuss and take action on the most pressing challenges facing our communities, and it is each of our responsibility to fulfill that dream.”

portrait outside
Savannah-Jane Griffin

She noted that millions of Americans make the MLK holiday “a day on, not a day off.” That includes thousands of Stetson students who have volunteered with local community partners since Stetson adopted the holiday as a day of service in 2008.

“I would like to encourage everyone at Stetson University and in DeLand to pay tribute to the life and works of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. through participation in community service projects on Martin Luther King Jr. Day and throughout the year,” Griffin said.

-Cory Lancaster