CUNY Honors Legacy Of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Through Service And A Recommitment To Make Good On Its Historic Mission

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. with CCNY President Buell Gallagher, June 12, 1963.

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The City University of New York is commemorating Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day with a series of events and volunteer activities on its campuses and throughout the city. It has been nearly 57 years since the iconic civil rights champion’s landmark commencement address at the City College of New York, which he delivered June 12, 1963, just hours after the assassination of Medgar Evers in Mississippi.

Among the highlights are a Day of Service organized by the College of Staten Island. In partnership with Project Hospitality and the Council of Jewish Organizations, college volunteers will paint a new community food pantry. Queens College’s “In the Footsteps of Dr. King” program will offer a unique opportunity for students to travel to sites that figured prominently in the civil rights movement. They will meet civil rights pioneers as they tour the iconic locations, explore the modern-day impacts of the Civil Rights Movement and share what they have learned with a broader audience. In association with the Brooklyn Academy of Music and Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams, Medgar Evers College will again present New York City’s largest public celebration of MLK Day. This year’s event features a keynote speech by journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones and musical guests Son Little and the Brooklyn Interdenominational Choir.

“To honor the indelible memory and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., we at CUNY recommit ourselves to our historic mission of providing a life-transforming education to our students, who represent every background, so that they will be empowered to achieve their own hopes and dreams,” said CUNY Chancellor Félix V. Matos Rodríguez. “In his commencement address at City College in 1963, Dr. King urged us all to remember that we are bound to each other regardless of race, nationality or politics. Dr. King said: ‘No nation or individual can live alone in the modern world. We must all learn to live together as brothers or we will all perish together as fools.’ They are timeless words, as true today as they were then, and well worth remembering on MLK Day and every other day of the year.”

CUNY’s 2020 MLK Day activities include:

Medgar Evers College
The 34th Annual Brooklyn Tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Monday, Jan. 20, 10:30 a.m.
Brooklyn Academy of Music, Peter Jay Sharp Building, 30 Lafayette Avenue, Brooklyn

New York City’s largest public celebration in honor of iconic civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. returns to Brooklyn Academy of Music for the 34th year, presented by BAM, Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams and Medgar Evers College. All members of the community are invited to this beloved annual tradition, which brings together world-renowned activists, public figures and civic leaders alongside musicians and other performers. Join us in paying tribute to Dr. King’s legacy and to help keep alive his message of equality, peace and hope. This year’s keynote speaker is journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones, and the event features musical guests Son Little and the Brooklyn Interdenominational Choir. This full day of free events also includes a screening and an art exhibition entitled Picture the Dream (on view through Feb. 27). For more information, visit here. The event is free and open to the public. General admission tickets will be distributed on a first-come, first-seated basis. Lobby doors open at 8 a.m.

College of Staten Island
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service
Monday, Jan. 20, 9 a.m.
Temple Emanu-El, 984 Post Avenue, Staten Island

The College of Staten Island’s Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service engages our Dolphin community to embody Dr. King’s vision and bring people of all ages and backgrounds together, strengthening their communities and building a stronger Staten Island. This year, we will need volunteers to help honor Dr. King’s legacy with Project Hospitality and the Council of Jewish Organizations. We will be painting what will become a new food pantry to help combat the rising food insecurity here on Staten Island. Volunteers interested in volunteering or have any additional questions, please call Robert King Kee at (718) 982-3119. Volunteers should wear clothes that can get dirty. Long pants are recommended and closed-toe shoes are required. All painting supplies are provided.

Queens College
In the Footsteps of Dr. King
Sunday, Jan. 19, to Thursday, Jan. 23

In the Footsteps of Dr. King offers a unique opportunity for Queens College students to travel to major sites of the civil rights movement. It allows participants to connect with that struggle in meaningful ways. They will meet civil rights veterans, experience iconic sites firsthand, and explore modern-day impacts of the civil rights movement. As a condition of joining, students will be expected to document their experiences through video, photography and writing and, upon their return to campus, share what they have learned with a broader audience. Contact:

City College of New York 
MLK Day of Service
Saturday, Jan. 18
355 Food Center Drive, The Bronx, 10474

Over MLK Day Weekend, CCNY will support Food Bank For New York City and organize volunteers from the campus community for a day of service at the Food Bank’s  Warehouse & Distribution Center in the Bronx, uniting in an effort to repack 50,000 pounds of donated food to be distributed to those in need across New York City. Get ready to sort, pack, box, weigh, and label to get these much-needed food items out the door to fellow New Yorkers and get a free T-shirt. If you are interested in volunteering, please visit here and fill out the RSVP.

LaGuardia Community College
Weaving the Dream
Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2 p.m.
M-Building, MB-06, LaGuardia Community College, 31-10 Thomson Ave, Long Island City, Queens

Join Campus Life for an open discussion in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s legacy. The special guest speaker, Professor Victor Rosa of the English Department, will share his own experiences on advocacy and civic engagement. You can contribute to our decorative commitment tapestry by weaving together statements on what you will do this year to support equality and diversity on campus and in the community. Contact:

York College
Dr. Martin Luther King Day of Service Community Fair: Count Me In
Monday, Jan. 20, 11 a.m.
Robert Ross Family Life Center, York College, 94-20 Guy R. Brewer Blvd, Jamaica, Queens

The Fifth Annual Community Fair honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. also seeks donations of non-perishable food items for the community pantry. Also bring a pair of used eyeglasses if available. Contact:  Dr. Jean Phelps, (718) 262-2286,

The City University of New York is the nation’s largest urban public university, a transformative engine of social mobility that is a critical component of the lifeblood of New York City. Founded in 1847 as the nation’s first free public institution of higher education, CUNY today has seven community colleges, 11 senior colleges and seven graduate or professional institutions spread across New York City’s five boroughs, serving 275,000 students and awarding 55,000 degrees each year. CUNY’s mix of quality and affordability propels almost six times as many low-income students into the middle class and beyond as all the Ivy League colleges combined. More than 80 percent of the University’s graduates stay in New York, contributing to all aspects of the city’s economic, civic and cultural life and diversifying the city’s workforce in every sector. CUNY’s graduates and faculty have received many prestigious honors, including 13 Nobel Prizes and 26 MacArthur “Genius” Grants. The University’s historic mission continues to this day: provide a first-rate public education to all students, regardless of means or background.