The Singing of Heroes

SU honors four community members dedicated to continuing Dr. King’s journey.

There was a lot of singing at SU’s 25th Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration.

The Black Celestial Choir sang. The university’s MLK Community Choir sang. And some previously unsung heroes had their praises sung.

A crowd of more than 2,300 attended the dinner gathering at the Carrier Dome Sunday, where the 2010 Unsung Hero awards were presented. Gwen Ifill, senior correspondent for PBS’ NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, was the keynote speaker at the event.

Photo: Michael O'Neal
Jamall Wade, 12, Liverpool, N.Y. and fellow dance memebers Medgine Mede, 12, Syracuse, N.Y and Akeem Cotton, 16, Syracuse, N.Y. are part of the Creative Arts Academy, Community Folk Art Center of Syracuse University. The young dancers performed a routine named "Waiting on the World to Change" at the Reverend, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., 2010 , 25th Annual Celebration at the Carrier Dome of Syracuse University.

Michelle Singletary from the university’s Office of Residence Life recognized the recipients as “ordinary people with an extraordinary commitment to continuing the journey of Dr. King’s legacy.”

Four recipients were honored at the ceremony. One recipient brings the gift of literacy and books to poverty-stricken youth. Another inspires children of the South Side community with dance. An SU senior founded a campus organization to foster engagement of fellow young men. The fourth is a professor who has given a voice to the struggles of kids experiencing serious illness.


The ceremony also paused to remember Maj. Grant Williams, Jr. a beloved member of the Department of Public Safety for 40 years died last November after a long illness. 

Sgt. Ryan Beauford of DPS recalled his commitment to SU and the committee which organizes the annual MLK Celebration weekend. 

Beauford announced that the celebration’s organizing committee, of which Williams had been a founding member in 1986 and served as its chair in 2006, will place a marker in his memory in the Orange Grove.


Stephanie Breed

Stephanie Breed, a junior at Fayetteville-Manlius High School, started volunteering at the Samaritan Center downtown when she was ten years old. While serving meals there, Breed saw a need to not only give children a nutritious meal, but to also promote literacy and help ensure that underprivileged children had access to books.

The award “means I get more books for the kids. If I can get more awareness I can get more books,” Breed said.

Her program, Books Are Food for Thought, has already given more than 2,000 books to approximately 200 kids in Syracuse since its official inception in 2008.

Donna Bradford

When Donna Bradford founded Parents Promoting Dance, she especially wanted to nurture young dancers from underserved and underrepresented communities in Central New York.

Her organization stepped up after the Onondaga Dance Institute folded in 2007 and now trains youth year round to enter collegiate dance programs or professional companies. 

Odean Dyer 

Odean Dyer’s high school guidance counselor told him he didn’t see him going to college.

But Dyer will graduate SU in May with a degree in engineering, to follow a fascination that began when he first glimpsed the Brooklyn Bridge at age five.

As if the rigorous engineering curriculum weren’t enough, Dyer has also founded the Multicultural Empowering Network (MEN), working to engage fellow males in campus life and community service. MEN is a program in the Office of Multicultural Affairs aimed at developing personal excellence while exploring cultural masculinities and responsibilities to empower minority groups.

Eric Kingson

Kingson, a professor of social work in the College of Human Ecology, started volunteering at the Upstate Center for Spiritual Care.

He published “In Their Own Voices,” a book that emerged from conversations with children living with diseases like cancer, Crohn’s and sickle cell anemia. They contributed advice on what sustains them for others who might find themselves facing similar challenges.

Kingson said that this award “means these kids’ stories have been heard,” as he pointed to the table of children whose tales he’s helped tell. “Ask them,” he said.

Dominick Busco, who sat at the table said, “I feel like it’s a congratulations for everyone in the book.” Busco, 18, was fourteen when he was diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia, and still undergoes a combination of chemotherapy and radiation. “We’re left out – maybe this will shed some light on what we go through and what we have to do to get through it,” he said.

“This book – it’s something that kids after can look at and maybe find something that will help them get themselves through their treatments.”


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