Seeking Nominations for 2018 Hero Awards

The Syracuse University Martin Luther King Jr. 2018 Celebration committee is seeking nominations for the Unsung Heroes Awards, which will be presented during the evening celebration in the Carrier Dome on January 28, 2018. . The awards are presented annually to people who, in the spirit of Dr. King’s “beloved community,” have made a positive difference in the lives of others, but who are not widely recognized for their efforts. To be eligible for this award, nominees should not have received widespread recognition or been previously honored for their efforts, and their work should be ongoing and outside their normal job/student expectations

Nominations may be made in any of the following categories:
• Youth/Teen from Onondaga, Madison, Oswego, Cayuga or Cortland counties
• Adult from Onondaga, Madison, Oswego, Cayuga or Cortland counties
• Student at Syracuse University or SUNY-ESF
• Faculty or Staff from Syracuse University or SUNY-ESF

The deadline for submitting nominations is Monday, October 9, 2017.

2018 Unsung Heroes Award Nomination form-click here.

Contact information:
Sylvia Langford, Unsung Heroes Award Committee,
Ginny Yerdon, Hendricks Chapel, 443-5044,

2017 Unsung Hero Award Winners

The Dr. Martin Luther King Celebration Committee has selected the winners for this year’s Unsung Hero Award. The group will be honored at the Jan.29 event, which takes place at the Carrier Dome. Each award winner was nominated by a member of the community, and was carefully considered by committee members.

Shewa Shwani ’18

Shwani is in her junior year at State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry. She is a student ambassador and president of the Food Recovery Network, which works with charitable organizations throughout the city to recover prepared but unused food from dining halls and donate it to those in need. Shwani also organized the inaugural 3k Run for Literacy in Syracuse, which served to draw attention to poverty issues and the refugee population in Syracuse. She draws her inspiration from her mom, who works with local refugees, immigrants and other disadvantaged groups in the greater CNY community, as well as from King himself. Shwani’s nominator says she “truly exemplifies the spirit, life and teachings of Martin Luther King Jr. Shewa is a leader and a doer, and a believer that only light can drive out darkness. It’s what motivates her to participate and host numerous interfaith, multicultural and community development events, while keeping a busy school schedule and a high GPA.”

A. Peter Castro

Castro is a professor of anthropology in the Maxwell School. Castro has several decades’ worth of experience as an applied anthropologist for agencies such as the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN, the U.S. Agency for International Development, the UN Development Programme and others, working on issues of poverty alleviation, sustainable natural resource management, participatory development and conflict management aimed at helping the world’s poor. His nominator writes, “Applied anthropology is a field that uses anthropological data to solve problems in the modern world. This is the driving force behind Peter’s work. Peter’s commitment is well illustrated by his almost 30 years of service as a consultant for the Near East Foundation, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the United States Agency for International Development, the United Nations Development Program, CARE and other organizations in which he has taken a leading role. Receiving an MLK Unsung Hero Award acknowledges his long-time service to African development as an applied anthropologist, particularly with regard to the management of and access to natural resources, and efforts to alleviate hunger and poverty.”

Dr. Robert Fangio
Community Member

Dr. Robert Fangio is a dentist and Roman Catholic deacon. He also volunteers his dentistry skills for Amaus Health Services, which provides free dental care to those in need, including homeless people and those just released from prison. Lacking regular preventive care, patients often suffer pain and health-threatening dental emergencies. Fangio is a supervising dentist at the SUNY Canton School of Dental Hygiene, and also serves as a deacon at Holy Family Church in Syracuse. An accomplished musician, Fangio plays the accordion and serves as a Holy Family cantor. Besides traditional liturgical duties, “Deacon Bob” leads youth and senior groups in social and community service activities. His nominator believes that one particular Biblical passage speaks uniquely to Fangio: “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” (Luke 12:48)

Vincent Love
Community Member

Love is president of 100 Black Men of Syracuse Inc. The group is committed to the intellectual development of youth and the economic empowerment of the African-American community, by promoting a message of respect for family, spirituality, justice and integrity. Love works as a treasurer in the North Syracuse Central School District, and also serves on the boards of a number of organizations including the Center for Community Alternatives, The Gifford Foundation, Hillside Work Scholarship Connection and Vera House. He also helped to create the Saturday Academy, which works to improve the academic performance by young people in school and better prepare them for success in college and beyond. The program accepts a limited number of 4th- through 8th-grade male and female students without regard to their family’s financial situation. His nominator says that Love not only leads through his governance acumen, “but also by his personal modeling of what service and commitment to helping others is really all about; doing so with an unbridled passion and a pledge that is unmatched in a sustained manner. Through his strong commitment Vincent B. Love represents Dr. King’s legacy as King has stated ‘life’s most persistent and urgent question is what are you doing for others.’”


1965 Recording of Dr. King at Syracuse University

In July 1965 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. visited the campus of Syracuse University and spoke at Sims Hall. He was introduced by his longtime friend and Syracuse faculty member Dr. Charles Willie. This recording of his speech comes from the Syracuse University Archives.

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

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 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
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

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

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

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 ( 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 or by phone at 864-421-5869.