Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration featuring Trevor Noah

Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration featuring Trevor Noah

As we roll into Black History Month, Syracuse University celebrated the 34th annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration. The celebration highlighted the impact of service across the university and city’s community. The performances shared insight of the plights black people face in America today.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is no stranger to the SU community. In fact, King spoke at the 10th annual Summer Sessions dinner on July 13, 1961. The first African American professor, Charles V. Willie G’57, and King’s former Morehouse classmate invited him to speak on campus. King’s speech was titled “The American Dream” which came two years prior to his famous “I Have A Dream” speech in Washington D.C. In 1965, King returned to campus to speak on the inequality of housing and employment policies in his “The Time Is Always Right to Do Right.” King’s legacy is intertwined in Syracuse University’s history.



Hosted by Jackie Robinson, Syracuse University graduate ’78 and TV Anchor/Reporter, the program showcased talents from students of all ages. What resonated with me the most was the performance by A New Generation Eternally Lifting Souls (A.N.G.E.L.S.). The trio serenaded the audience with a rendition of the song A Tribute: And They Were Gone by Slim & The Supreme Angels. The song began with “has anybody here seen my young son,” each verse changing to address the tragic deaths of Emmett Till, Trayvon Martin, and Michael Brown. During the performance, the screens of the Carrier Dome played a video montage of unarmed black men and women who’ve lost their lives. Between the music and the faces flashing across the screen, I was captivated. Seeing the faces of people who could have been my niece, brother or father combined with the pain within the lyrics brought me to tears.


The special guest of the celebration was Trevor Noah. His book, Born A Crime was chosen for the 2018-2019 Syracuse Reads Program. His New York Times Best Seller is a love letter to his mother. Noah has made a name for himself all over the world. However, his perseverance from growing up during apartheid as a biracial South African inspired the audience to take the first step toward their dreams.


“If we never started walking we would never get to where we needed to go.”


My largest takeaway from Noah is the therapy of humor. It does not matter the adversities we face, laughter is free. “Humor is engrained in us,” he states. “You are your best self when you laugh.” Despite our various physical differences and the many obstacles one faces, Noah imbued the audience to incorporate laughing into our daily lives. In fact, it is scientifically proven that laughter is good for your health.


“Humor is how I see the world. It is a visceral expression of our joy.”


Photo credit: Alexandra Moreo, The Daily Orange

Noah advocates for the practice of gratitude, laughter and to remain a student of life. He uses his gift of humor to bring people together from all walks of life. Similarly, King used communication as his channel to bring people together and change the course of history. The stories of these two men serve as an inspiration for one to be their unapologetic selves and with everything we do, do it with love. Born A Crime was chosen for the 2018-2019 Syracuse Reads Program to address themes of identity, diversity, and inclusion.

You can purchase Born A Crime on Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

Erica Rawlins
Erica Rawlins is a graduate student at S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications and Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. She is studying Public Diplomacy. Her interests lie in advocacy, branding and harnessing the power of social media. Upon graduating from Syracuse University she hopes to tie her interests into a career that impacts emerging markets.
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