The Brooklyn Academy of Music hosted its annual tribute to legendary civil rights activist Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Monday, on what would have been his 95th birthday.
Guests were treated to musical performances by singer-songwriter Madison McFerrin and a moving rendition of both the Black national anthem, “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” and “We Shall Overcome” by the legendary Sing Harlem choir under the direction of Amaya Knoelle Higginson.
Several elected officials including Mayor Eric Adams and New York City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams spoke during the event.
“Look at where we are now,” Mayor Adams said during his speech. “We have a person of color who is the leader of the Democratic Party in Congress for the first time with Hakeem Jeffries from Brooklyn. The resources are headed by Black and Brown people across our state and city. The leader of the city is a person of color, the DA in Manhattan is a person of color, the DA in the Bronx. This is not a day off because of Dr. King, this is a day on. This is a day where we need to continue and run our minds.”
Council Member Crystal Hudson from NYC’s 35th Council District in Central Brooklyn also addressed the crowd.
“Hope, I believe, is the greatest gift Dr. King has left us with,” said Hudson. “In spite of all that we see, I continue to have
hope. Hope for a safe return of those being held hostage. Hope for an end to brutal war. Hope that I leave this world better than I found it. And, hope that my daughter lives with more dignity, more freedom, more rights, and more justice than me.”
Keynote speaker and founder of Freedom Reads, Reginald Dwayne Betts, addressed the crowd during the 38th Annual Brooklyn Tribute to King at the Howard Gilman Opera House, alongside Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso, whose office partnered with BAM to host the event.
“Dr. King taught us that love is not born of ease, rather it is how we create ease when there is little. It is why we give, especially when we have little to give,” Reynoso told the crowd. “New York has been going through some tough times. Keeping a roof over our heads, putting food on the table, accessing the care that keeps us safe and healthy – these are challenges on many of our minds every day.”
“And it is in moments like this that we see fear kick in, that we see hate fester, that we risk losing sight of what truly makes our city special,” Reynoso went on. “And what makes our city special is love. Radical, absolute, unwavering love. Because this is the thing about love – this is what Dr. King taught us: love is not complacent.”
King, an American Baptist minister, was one of the significant voices during the civil rights movement from 1955 up until his assassination in 1968. A Nobel Peace Prize laureate, King was well-renowned for his leadership in nonviolent actions to advocate for the end of segregation and discrimination in America.
In what would become one of the most significant moments in American history, King was involved in the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, which saw over 250,000 protestors descend on the nation’s capital to promote equity and opportunity. At the event, King would address the masses during his monumental “I Have a Dream” speech.
New York State Governor Kathy Hochul also announced on Monday that 12 state landmarks would be illuminated in honor of King.
“The legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. lives on through the power of his conviction and the faith we devote to his mission,” Hochul said. “His infinite hope is an enduring reminder of the task before us — to dedicate ourselves to the belief that all men are created equal, and to bend the arc of the moral universe towards justice.”
Last updated Jan. 16, 2024, 1:41 p.m.