A Rededication to King’s Mission and Dream

Artist Cey Adams and President Polisi at the unveiling of a mural created by Adams and members of the Juilliard community in honor of Martin Luther King.

 (Photo by Sabrina Tanbara)

During the week of January 20, the Juilliard community joined hundreds of thousands of Americans who commemorated the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday by participating in a national day of service and a number of other events honoring the civil rights movement. The week’s events were meant to inspire, educate, and further emphasize Juilliard’s commitment to developing the artist as citizen. 

As part of the week of M.L.K. activities, students created “birthday-party-in-a-box” gift packages for underserved children.

(Photo by Sabrina Tanbara)


Juilliard highlights included the unveiling of the M.L.K. Life and Legacy mural, a collaboration between New York visual artist Cey Adams and our students; a service project which involved Juilliard students, faculty, and staff who made “birthday in a box” gift packages that were delivered to 10 deserving families along with a donation of more than 65 children’s books to a local charity; a Rock the Vote event during which students registered to vote in New York or in their home states; and a rousing lecture (cosponsored with the Liberal Arts Department) called The Art of the African-American Political Struggle that was presented by author and television personality Melissa Harris-Perry, a professor at Wake Forest University.

For 25 years, the staff in the Student Affairs Office, in collaboration with other staff and faculty volunteers, worked to support students in producing a King celebration that took place on the evening of the federal holiday. Several Juilliard community members have expressed concern that there was no M.L.K. show this year, while others wondered if it should continue in the same format. King always said he wanted to start dialogues, and we’re glad this did.

With the change in the leadership of the student development team and in recognition of the fact that we are now two generations removed from the civil rights era, this year seemed like the perfect opportunity to refocus and rededicate our programming and activities to more closely align with the vision and mission of King and with President Barack Obama’s call for a national day of service. The Student Affairs staff worked with the Student Council and other student groups to develop and plan the week’s activities, which provided more accessibility for the broader Juilliard community to engage with and reflect upon King and his legacy as well as all the people who have dedicated and sacrificed their lives to the betterment of the nation. 

We are in the midst of the year spanning the 50th anniversaries of two events that focused the nation’s attention on civil and human rights and the disenfranchisement of its African-American citizens: the March on Washington and the passage of the Civil Rights Act. In commemoration of these historic events, the Liberal Arts Department has been sponsoring a yearlong focus on the civil rights movement. Harris-Perry’s well-received lecture, the first time Student Affairs has collaborated with Liberal Arts to sponsor an educational event dedicated to King, was the first of what will become an annual Martin Luther King Jr. Lecture Series.

The Student Development Team welcomes suggestions for next year’s commemoration and looks forward to your support as we move forward together. Please email your thoughts, comments, and suggestions to OSA@juilliard.edu.

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