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National theme “Shifting the Cultural Climate through the Study and Practice of Kingian Nonviolence”


Presbyterian College will celebrate the life and work of the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on Jan. 15 with service to the community and a powerful message of hope.

This year’s national theme is “Shifting the Cultural Climate through the Study and Practice of Kingian Nonviolence.”

PC’s Student Volunteer Services begins the day’s events with a series of community projects, including:

  • Keeping Laurens County Beautiful – 9-11 a.m. at 355 Conway Ave., Laurens
  • Springdale United Methodist Church cleanup – 10:30 a.m. to noon at 851 Springdale Dr., Clinton
  • Clinton Canopy at Millers Fork – 10 a.m. to noon at 412 Corporate Center Dr., Clinton
  • Clinton Community Garden – 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at 1118 South Bell St., Clinton
  • Presbyterian Home Card Writing – 1-2 p.m. in Springs Campus Center
  • Presbyterian Home BINGO – 3-5 p.m. at 801 Musgrove St., Clinton

Students also are attending this year’s King Day at the Dome in Columbia, where they will gather first at 8:30 a.m. at Zion Baptist Church before marching to the State House at 9:30 a.m. This year’s featured guest speakers are U.S. House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries and Vice President Kamala Harris.

Derrick Quarles, a community activist and the founder and chief executive officer of Evolve Upstate, is this year’s guest MLK lecturer. He will speak at 6:30 p.m. on Jan. 15 in Edmunds Hall. The event is free and open to the public.

In addition to his work with Evolve, Quarles advocates for racial and economic equity and is a relentless voice for criminal justice reform. He has been an active organizer with Black Lives Matter, Dream Defenders, Black Youth Project, and other social justice groups nationwide.

In 2015, following a series of incidents of police brutality against children and people of color, Quarles answered an invitation from then-vice president Joe Biden to discuss criminal justice reform and recommendations for modernizing policing practices.

In 2019, he received an invitation from the United States Attorney in South Carolina to explore strategies for enhancing police and community relations. This invitation held significance as the United States Attorney for South Carolina serves as the chief federal law enforcement officer within their jurisdiction.

Quarles’ journey led him to run for the S.C. General Assembly in Greenville, facing stiff competition among six other candidates. Although he narrowly missed the election by just 28 votes, he has remained committed to the cause of ensuring that marginalized communities are adequately represented at all levels of government.

Quarles earned his bachelor’s degree in political science from Claflin University and a master’s degree in public administration from Grand Canyon University. He is currently working on a Ph.D. in urban higher education administration at Jackson State University.

He is a member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc., and has held leadership roles in various civic engagement groups. Derrick furthered his involvement in child protection initiatives by serving on the South Carolina Citizen Review Board for the Department of Social Services.

Quarles’ commitment to “Building Back Better,” a framework promoted by President Joe Biden, earned him an invitation to the White House in December 2022. He was honored with the Dream Keeper Award by the Racial Equity and Economic Mobility Coalition (REEM) in Greenville on MLK Day 2023, as well as the Change Maker Award from Multiplying Good, a national nonprofit focused on public service empowerment.

As a TEDx presenter and frequent commentator in the press, Quarles uses his platform to amplify the voices of the unheard. He embodies hope, dedication, and progress, tirelessly working to create a brighter and more equitable future for all.