More than 2,000 students and local residents gather in remembrance of Martin Luther King Jr.

Students and members of the Syracuse community gathered together in the Carrier Dome Saturday to honor the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. and local heroes of Syracuse.

More than 2,000 Syracuse University students and Syracuse residents gathered in the Carrier Dome Saturday for a night of inspiration and remembrance of Martin Luther King Jr. at SU’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration.

This celebration is a Syracuse tradition that has endured for over 25 years. The university welcomed Roslyn Brock, the chairman of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, or the NAACP, as the keynote speaker for the evening.

Photo: Taylor Baucom
Roslyn M. Brock, Chair of the National Board of Directors for the NAACP, gives the keynote speech at the 2013 Martin Luther King Jr. Remembrance celebration. The event was part of the 15th annual I Have A Dream Week.

Brock said she was honored to be representing and furthering Dr. King’s dream at this event.

“Dr. King’s words were prophetic, during the time that he lived and even more so since the time that he passed,” she said. “He really challenged us 50 years ago in the “I Have a Dream” speech to live in a world where we can all get along and work toward the common good.”

Brock took the stage after the meal and lively performances from Adanfo, an African drum and dance ensemble, and OneWorld, a multicultural student dance organization.

Whitney Marin, a sophomore television, radio and film and policy studies major, said she had been to this celebration at SU before, and was looking forward to this year’s program.

“I’m excited to hear the Black Celestial Choir again,” Marin said. “I think this year the performances will be just as great as last year.”

The Black Celestial Choral Ensemble, or BCCE, is composed of SU students, alumni and members of the Syracuse community. They led the audience in the Negro National Anthem “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing,” the chorus of which reads, “Lift ev’ry voice and sing, till earth and heaven ring, ring with the harmonies of liberty.”

Karen Castro, a freshman Latin American studies major, said she felt that remembrance of the struggle for liberty for minority communities is an important reason to hold events like SU’s MLK Celebration.

 “These kinds of events makes us remember events from the past, and how much we have progressed from that, and what we have learned from that,” Castro said. 

The event also acted as a commemorative stage to present the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Unsung Hero Awards to members of the Syracuse community who have committed their lives to remembering Dr. King’s dream of equality for all. One of 2013’s honorees was Brenda Muhammad, a volunteer with Habitat for Humanity who raised $30,000 towards the organization’s Women Build project.

“It’s really a big honor to be acknowledged for volunteering and doing something that I love to do,” Muhammad said. “Martin Luther King Jr. was a great man, and any association with him is wonderful.” 

Muhammad said she believed holding events in Dr. King’s honor keeps his message from getting lost in American communities. “It keeps him alive,” she said. “He’s gone but not forgotten.”

Stan Ames, a resident of Syracuse and an event attendee, said he feels that without events that remember the civil rights movement and those behind it, today’s youth will forget who gave them the freedoms they now enjoy.

“A lot of kids today, if you ask them who Dr. King is, a lot of them can’t tell you,” Ames said. “And it’s sad…but this right here tonight keeps him going. These kids getting up there to perform tonight…in years to come they’ll remember and say, that was a celebration for Dr. King and what he did.”

 As Roslyn Brock stood at the lectern and delivered her keynote address, she focused Dr. King’s impact on the future of the African American community. She spoke about how this generation is a monumental one for black America, with the second term of President Barack Obama beginning tomorrow.

But, she said, there is still much work to be done for civil rights, and it cannot be done “without real leaders. Men and women with courage and a clarity of purpose to make this nation what it ought to be—one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice, not just for some, but for all.”

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