J.R. Martinez Keynote Speaker at 2017 Celebration

J.R. Martinez is this year's MLK Keynote Speaker.
J.R. Martinez is this year’s MLK Keynote Speaker.

The Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration committee is proud to announce the speaker for this year’s event. Best-selling author, actor, U.S. Army veteran and motivational speaker J.R. Martinez will provide the keynote address at the yearly celebration of the life and legacy of Dr. King. This is the 32nd year for the event at Syracuse University’s Carrier Dome, It’s the largest of its kind, and will take place on Sunday, January 29, 2017.

“It’s an honor to be named as the keynote speaker for this event,” said Martinez, “primarily because of the man who we gather to honor, but also, because of the large number of people from all walks of life who will be there to honor Dr. King.”

Martinez was born in Shreveport, Louisiana and raised in Dalton, Georgia. He joined the Army after high school and was deployed to Iraq in 2003. A month into his tour he, along with three other soldiers, were badly burned in a roadside explosion. During his recovery, a nurse asked him to speak to a burn patient, who had just seen his body for the first time and had become withdrawn. For Martinez, it was a life changing moment. After a brief visit, he realized that he had a positive impact on this patient and decided to use his own experiences to help others. He continued to visit patients every day, sharing his story and listening to theirs. He learned that inspiration is often a two-way street.

Martinez has since become a motivational speaker, traveling the world to spread a message of resilience and optimism. Martinez story captured the attention of producers on the Emmy Award-winning daytime drama All My Children, where he played a role he was familiar with: as a wounded veteran returning home to face the many challenges of civilian life. More recently, Martinez showed his dancing skills, winning the Mirrorball Trophy as part of the Dancing with the Stars program. He’s appeared on TV shows including Oprah, 60 Minutes, The Tonight Show, Good Morning America, and on Univision. His story was told in the New York Times, and he was also named one of People’s “Most Intriguing People” of 2011. Martinez is also the author of the New York Times bestselling book, Full of Heart: My Story of
Survival, Strength, and Spirit, a memoir about how he was able to take his personal tragedy and turn it into an inspiration for others. He’s also serves as a spokesperson for a number of organizations, including Operation Finally Home and the Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors.

According to 2017 Celebration Chairwoman Ajajielle Brown, “to have a motivational voice and Army veteran serve as our main speaker, the honor is truly ours. J.R.’s story is one that should serve as an inspiration to us all. He helps to lift voices and spirits, and more to the point, shows that what’s inside a person is what counts.”

Martinez will be the featured speaker, but the celebration includes more than the event at the Carrier Dome. It’s a weekend filled with activities and community-wide involvement organized by the City of Syracuse, the University and the MLK committee. On Saturday, January 28, a community event will be held at Nottingham High School. The community event includes a day of educational workshops and recreational activities, as well as an awards ceremony for K-12 students.

On Sunday, Jan. 29, dinner precedes the program at 4:30 p.m., with doors opening at 4 p.m. Tickets go on sale beginning November 1. For employees, staff and the general public, tickets will be sold through the Schine Box Office, and are available on an individual basis ($30) or in blocks of 10 ($300). Cash, credit or interdepartmental ID may be used. All tickets are for general seating.
Student tickets are $15 and can be purchased through a meal plan at dining halls. Students without a meal plan can purchase at Schine Box Office as well.

The evening program, which includes an address by Martinez, the presentation of the 2017 Unsung Hero Awards, music by a community choir and entertainment by student performers, begins at 5:30 p.m. and is free and open to the public. For questions, call Hendricks Chapel at 315-443-5044.

American Sign Language (ASL) interpretation and Communication Access Real-Time will be available at the event. To request dietary or other accommodations, contact Ginny Yerdon at Hendricks Chapel at 315-443-2901 or gyerdon@syr.edu.

Request for a Copy of Speeches and Performances

The committee has received calls and emails as it relates to request for copies of transcripts and/or DVDs of the program. At this time we are looking into this matter and once we have determine a course of action we will send out information.

MLK Celebration 2016 Recap

Dr. Marc Lamont Hill was the keynote speaker at the 31st annual Dr. King Celebration at the Carrier Dome on Jan. 31, 2016.
Marc Lamont Hill was the keynote speaker at the 31st annual Dr. King Celebration at the Carrier Dome on Jan. 31, 2016.

More than 1,000 people were at the Carrier Dome Sunday night to pay tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and to listen to the captivating words of Marc Lamont Hill, Distinguished Professor of African American Studies at Morehouse College and a leading journalistic voice in social justice.

It was part of the 31st annual celebration in honor of the slain civil rights leader. The evening also featured student performances, along with the presentation of the Unsung Hero Awards.

Five members of the Syracuse University and greater Syracuse community were named as Unsung Heroes for 2016.

Unsung Hero award winners from the 31st annual Dr. King Celebration.
Unsung Hero award winners from the 31st annual Dr. King Celebration.

The winners are:

Kanisha Ffriend ’16
Syracuse University Student
Ffriend, a selected studies in education and disability studies major in the School of Education, was nominated for her leadership role in bringing attention to the issue of culture and disability. She is creator of The Girls’ Room, which aims to empower young women, building self-esteem through social skills and promotion of health body image. Ffriend also published “I, Too, Am a Dancer!,” a book about a young girl with a disability. Ffriend has maintained a leadership role in the Disability Cultural Center, the Disability Student Union and the Disability Services Office. In the community, she volunteers with the Prision Outreach Program at Grace Episcopal Church. Shantel Jones, who nominated Ffriend, writes “Kanisha Ffriend absolutely embodies the life, teachings and spirit of Martin Luther King Jr. Kanisha understands that Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream is not exclusive, but inclusive, and it is our responsibility to tease out his dream so that it is attainable and understood by everyone, not only those who have been fortunate enough to attend college. Over the past three years I have watched Kanisha literally break down Martin Luther King Jr’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech and make it attainable to the community regardless of age, ability, gender or socioeconomic standing.”

Montinique McEachern
Syracuse University Graduate Student
McEachern’s nominator, Tiffany Gray, calls her “a warrior, a caregiver, a storyteller, a healer, a poet, a sister, a daughter, a friend, a sorority member and a person with strength, power and passion.” McEachern utilizes her education, experiences, activism and various spaces she occupies to be that voice. She has been involved in Black Lives Matter events, was a co-facilitator of Fusion discussion group for queer people of color last year and attends many events/presentations that center on social justice on and off campus. Additionally, McEachern has made many contributions to her graduate program in counseling, worked at Crouse Hospital as a chemical dependency therapist, carries a full case load of clients and is now a marriage and family therapy doctoral student and teaching assistant. She created a group in the community called Queer Women of Color Collective!, which was formed as a way to unite queer and trans women of color in the Syracuse area through collaboration, laughter and learning in a radically healing space.

Imani Wallace ’16
Syracuse University Student
Wallace is a senior majoring in public relations in the Newhouse School and minoring in sociology in the College of Arts and Sciences. She was nominated by three members of our campus community. One of her nominators, Daquan Thomas, writes, “As the community service coordinator for the National Association of the Advancement of Colored People and Vice President of the Student African American Society, Imani has proactively led the charge against issues facing student of color through various workshops and themed discussions. She is a founder and president of the Black Artist League, which cultivates art for underrepresented students at Syracuse University. Moreover, as a member of the National Association of Negro Business and Professional Woman’s Club, Imani advocates for protecting the business interests of women of color.” Wallace volunteers in the Syracuse City School District at Edward Smith School, working with 7th- and 8th-grade students. Ronald Jones, who also nominated Wallace, writes that she “is a student who truly believes in the synthesis of word, spoken truth and activism in order to create cathartic community connections.”

Maarten Jacobs
Syracuse University Staff Member
Jacobs serves as director of the Near West Side Initiative. His nominator, Marilyn Higgins, writes, “Every Monday evening for the past 10 years, Maarten and his wife, Andrea, have lead the youth ministry at Holy Family Church. I have known Maarten to spend Friday night driving a group of raucous teenagers to New York City following a week of 10-hour days at his job. Once there, he joins them in boarding a plane to El Salvador, where he teaches, models and leads through service, in the tradition of Martin Luther King. Three times he has brought youth to the most impoverished communities in that country to build bridges and provide relief to those with basic unmet human needs that are unthinkable situations in the U.S. He has led similar trips to some of the poorest neighborhoods in Buffalo, Washington, D.C., and Worcester, Mass. By providing respectful service to people living on the margins of society, Maarten is inspiring youth to see the value of all people and experience the deep satisfaction of making a difference in their lives.” Jacobs was a driving force behind the transformation of an abandoned rail yard into Lipe Art Park on West Fayette Street in Syracuse as the chairman of the 40 Below Public Art Task Force. He also volunteers regularly for the Literacy Coalition’s “Reading Buddies” program at Seymour School. He also coaches East Side Soccer.

Tan Ngo
Community Member
Tan has been with the Syracuse City School District for 25 years, the past 14 serving as teaching assistant at Fowler High School, where he helps English as a second language (ESL) students learn English and math. His nominator, Julie Sherman, writes, “Although he works with primarily the ESL population, his door is open to all, and many other students take advantage of his mathematical knowledge. He comes in at 6 a.m. to work with students who come early and he leaves far in the evening after working with students after school—always making sure that they have a safe way home (for no extra pay). He often works with students through every break and every lunch period—he is truly a hero to those he teaches. At Fowler, though, he is an institution. One student arrived in 9th grade, and did not even know how to say the word bathroom in English. She stayed after school every day with Mr. Tan and he helped her learn English faster. She finished in the top 10 of her class. He never seeks acknowledgement for his hard work, and will blush when you offer it. I have known Mr. Tan for 7 years and I am still awe-inspired by his devotion and efforts.”

Student Speaker 2016 : Danielle Reed

Danielle Reed

Danielle Reed is a senior from Atlanta, Georgia with a double major in Spanish Language, Literature & Culture and African American Studies. This year she returns from a semester abroad in Madrid, where she filmed her first documentary, Black en Spain, which investigates the experiences of people of the African Diaspora living in Spain. Reed is an aspiring journalist who interned at Time Warner Cable News in Syracuse last summer through the T. Howard Foundation, and currently reports for Citrus TV News on campus. Known as a student activist through her leadership and involvement in different student movements related to Syracuse University and social justice issues. Reed is an active member in the Syracuse community, having worked at the Community Folk Art Center and lead efforts to re-establish The Black Voice, a campus publication that was founded in 1968. Before graduating in May, she hopes to debut, Black en Spain, on campus and in the community this February.

Community Event Information

A Community wide celebration of the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King. Jr. in his commitment to American Civil Rights and Social Justice.

Saturday, January 30, 2016
Location: William Nottingham High School
3100 E. Genesee Street
Syracuse, NY 13224

How does this benefit Syracuse University Students?

Through this event we have to enrich our Syracuse University students’ understanding and appreciation for civic engagement as both an educational experience on diversity and civic good. We also have help to foster relationships between the University and community by providing a fun-filled, educational experience for children and their families. Below are the three point that Syracuse University Students will get out of this celebration:

· Civic Engagement
· Student ambassadors
· Fostering Relationships
For more information on the Community Celebration contact Marissa L. Willingham at mlwill07@syr.edu or 315-443-9676


As part of the Community Celebration, we look for organizations to have informational table.

All organization are asked to host a table and provide information about your organization which we know will be of interests to the 300-500 parents and children in attendance.  We have scheduled a series of workshops, performances, and plan to have several organizations attend this event. We ask that all organization be present from 11:30-2:30pm.
If you would like to participate, please provide the following information which will be printed in the program brochure to Marissa L Willingham at mlwill07@syr.edu:
Name of Organization
Mission Statement
Contact Information
We thank you in advance for your continued support of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s legacy and our community.

Below is a list of organizations from January 2015 

American Diabetes Association
Brady Faith Center
Churches with Tutoring: Bellegrove Missionary Baptist Church
Dunbar Association
Huntington Family Center
Interfaith Works
Matilda Joslyn Gage Foundation
On Point for College –
Onondaga Community College
Parent Advocacy
Parenting University, Syracuse City School District –
Syracuse City School District
Syracuse Inner-City Rotary Club
Syracuse University, Office of Admissions
The Salvation Army, New York State of Health
Vera House

The part of the event allows for community organizations, and colleges/university’s to inform and educate students and families about services that are offered within their very own neighborhoods. The workshops that are held provide artistic, cultural and different educational teachings. We are looking for organizations/groups that would be interested in doing an in-kind workshop on different topics ranging from dance, poetry, educational opportunities, STEM (Science Technology Engineering, Mathematics) and much more.

The event will take place on Saturday, January 31st, from 12-2:30, Location William Nottingham High School. We ask that all organization be present from 11:30-2:30pm. You will be provided a classroom space, but you would need to bring your own equipment (if any).  The audience for this usually appeals to youth from K-12 grade. 

2015 Participation
Black Reign Step Team
Break Dancing
Creations Dance Company
Line Dancing
Verbal Blend Poetry Program
SCSD Code of Conduct
Talk to a Lawyer
Maker Hall STEM activities
3d Printing
Astronaut 101
Basketball Math
Electronics Excitement
Float a Boat
Fossil Searches
Green Infrastructure
Solar Observation and Space Rocks
Spaghetti Engineering
Stem Ambassadors
Virtual Engineering

If interested, and if you have any questions, please feel free to email Marissa Willingham at mlwill07@syr.edu.

Thank you!

Martin Luther King Jr Community Celebration 2015 at Fowler HS and Dinner Michele Norris Keynote Speaker MLK
Martin Luther King Jr Community Celebration 2015 at Fowler HS and Dinner Michele Norris Keynote Speaker MLK

For the second half of the event from 2:30 – 4:00 p.m., the committee provides entertainment, highlight and recognize young individuals from grades K-12, with the Youth Unsung Hero Award.

Youth Unsung Hero’s
Eligibility: An exemplary student (K-12) who exemplifies the spirit, life, and teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Past recipients have been recognized for their leadership, scholarship, advocating for peace and justice, building bridges between students, raising funds or awareness for a cause, etc.

We seek Schools help in identifying recipients for this award. We are looking for youth who have made a positive difference in the lives of others.

Awards: Awardees from each school will receive:
Framed certificate
Special book related to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Recognized at the Community Celebration on January 17, 2015; and your name will be printed in the program of the Dr. King Dinner Celebration held at the Carrier Dome on Sunday, January 31, 2016


2015 Past Unsung Hero’s
Zecarjah Bernard Alex, 8th Grade
Antwan Goodman – 5th Grade, Hughes Elementary
Che’onnie Mathis – 5th Grade, Hughes Elementary
Macy Missigman – 8th Grade, Ed Smith Middle School
Peter Morrison – 1st Grade, The Syracuse Latin School
Annise Pascal – 5th Grade, Dr. King Elementary
Emanuel Miguel Ramos – 6th Grade, Westside Academy at Blodgett
Nashawn Stenson, 5th Grade, Hughes Elementary School
Ny’Kier Walker – 1st Grade, The Syracuse Latin School
Grace Eunseo Lee – 7th Grade, Eagle Hill Middle School
Dong Geol Ryu -9th Grade, Fayetteville- Manlius High School
Alexander Yoo – 7th Grade, Dewitt Middle School
Taehee Woo – 10th Grade, Living Word Academy

Martin Luther King Jr Community Celebration 2015 at Fowler HS and Dinner Michele Norris Keynote Speaker MLK
Martin Luther King Jr Community Celebration 2015 at Fowler HS and Dinner Michele Norris Keynote Speaker MLK

We are seeking entertainment for the Community Celebration held at Fowler High School. We are presently looking for singers, poets, steppers, dancers, skits, etc.

All performers will perform on the main stage in the auditorium that will begin at 2:40pm and ending at 4pm. This is a Family-friendly event! If you would like to perform please contact Marissa L. Willingham at mlwill07@syr.edu.

Syracuse Elite Drum Line
Black Celestial Choral Ensemble (BCCE)
Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc and Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.
Spoken Word Poetry
Young and Talented Dance Company


Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Community celebration committee is looking for volunteers.

On Saturday, January 30, 2016 from 12:00 – 4:00 p.m. there will be a Community Celebration held at (Location TBA). This is a community-wide celebration of the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in his commitment to American Civil Rights and social justice. The day will include a series of workshops, performances, information, Maker Hall fun, and recognizing Youth Unsung Heroes.

This event has been designed to enrich the Syracuse Community’s understanding and appreciation for civic engagement with an educational experience focusing on diversity and civic good. Your assistance as a volunteer will assist to foster relationships between Syracuse University and the City of Syracuse Community by providing a fun-filled day with an educational experience.

We are looking for volunteers, between the hours of 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

If interested, and if you have any questions, please feel free to email Marissa Willingham at mlwill07@syr.edu.

Thank you!

Student-Veterans MLK Food Drive Underway

The Student Veterans Organization (SVO) of Syracuse University and the Student Veterans Association (SVA) of Le Moyne College are partnering with Clear Path for Veterans (http://www.clearpath4vets.com/) in an effort to provide meals to the veterans in our community by organizing a food drive that kicks off today and will run through January 15th. The donations received from the food drive will then be donated to Clear Path for Veterans for their weekly lunches as well as for their food pantry that serves needy veterans in the community.

Collection bins will be placed across the Syracuse University campus as well as at Le Moyne College in high visibility areas. The boxes at Syracuse University will be placed in the Schine Student Center, the Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF), the Student Veterans Lounge, the Goldstein Center on South Campus, and at University College. The boxes at Le Moyne College will be placed at the Student Veterans Association lounge as well as in the main dining hall.

In addition to the food drive, the Syracuse University SVO will be hosting the MLK Day Lunch of Thanks, set to take place on January 18th from 12 p.m. – 2 p.m. at Clear Path for Veterans. The Lunch of Thanks is intended to thank veterans and their supporters across the Syracuse University and Le Moyne College campus communities for their contributions to the United States. “By partnering with Clear Path for Veterans, we can effectively work to feed needy families over the holidays,” said Jordan Robinson, president of the Syracuse University SVO.

Fundraising for this event will come in the form of grants and scholarships, monetary donations from the wider community, and through the sale of yellow ribbon “support our troops” car magnets. The proceeds from these donations will help fund the luncheon at Clear Path by paying for food and labor. “We are very excited to be the recipient of such a great cause and we always appreciate when other organizations think of us as an outlet for their philanthropic efforts,” said Earl Fontenot, director of programs and services at Clear Path for Veterans.

To donate, please contact Jordan Robinson at jlrobi03@syr.edu or by phone at 864-421-5869.

Student Presenter for the Celebration Speaker

Student Presenter for the Celebration Speaker

Do you want to be part of the largest Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration? Do you want to be the Celebration Speaker Presenter? If chosen you will introduce Marc Lamont Hill this year’s speaker by sharing his achievement and words that you provided in your submission. You will give a 2 minute introduction of the speaker which includes highlights from your submission the selected student will also sit in the front row at the celebration.

– Open to any current ESF/ Syracuse University Undergraduate or Graduate.
– Student must be in good standing with either ESF or Syracuse University
– If student is selected student must attend the following:
– Dress Rehearsal Jan 30, 2016 at the Carrier Dome (time will share later)
– Celebration Dinner January 31, 2016 at 4:00pm at the Carrier Dome
– A ticket will be provide to this student at no cost.
– Student must attend the celebration on January 31, 2016 in either business or semi-formal attire.

Submission Information:
– Submit a three minute video and a one page essay answering the following question:

How does Marc Lamont Hill his work encompass this year’s theme of Remember. Celebrate. Act: Activism and Agency for the Future

– One page essay 12 point, Times New Roman, Double Space.
– All submissions should be emailed to Catherine Kellman at ckellman@syr.edu by Dec. 4th 2015 at Midnight.

– Students will be notified by December 16, 2015 via email on their status.

If any questions please contact Catherine Kellman at ckellman@syr.edu