Harlem’s Apollo Theater played host to one of the many celebrations of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s (MLK) life and legacy Sunday, one day before the federal holiday, with live talks and entertainment performances upon the iconic stage.
The 17th annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day celebration, “MLK–Blueprint for the Culture,” hosted by WNYC and WQXR radio, took place on Jan. 15 with Dr. King’s historic image gazing over the auditorium, brand new President and CEO of New York Public Radio LaFontaine E. Oliver greeted a sold-out crowd.
“For me, standing here today before you for today’s program, it’s nothing short of a dream come true,” Oliver began. “A blueprint is also a collective document. It’s something that an architect makes in conversation with the people who are going to inhabit whatever is being built, and everyone else who understands the rules, the rituals, geography, the lay of the land, if you will, of where it is going to stand. A blueprint is also by nature unfinished, subject to revision, as obstacles and opportunities emerge, and plans change, sound familiar? The teachings of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. are in fact a blueprint and endearing portrait of where we could go, where we should go as a society.”
For the first time since the pandemic, this in-person commemoration focused on reflection of the past and eyes toward a future commitment to justice. The first hour began with conversations between host Kai Wright and guest activist and co-founder of Freedom March NYC Chelsea Miller and Dr. Imani Perry, author and professor at Princeton, where they spoke about impacting young people through activism and engagement.
This was then followed by the second half of the program featuring musical collections, such as the Harlem Chamber Players, Dream Launchers, Chauncey Packer and more.
“This year, we’re shining a light on young people – celebrating a new generation of activists who are the inheritors of Dr. King’s commitment to fighting unjust laws, racism, poverty, and oppression. We’ll also explore the rich musical legacy of the civil rights era through live musical performances. We’re proud to bring new context and layers each year to the ways Dr. King remains ever relevant to our times,” said Brenda Williams-Butts, Chief Diversity Officer at New York Public Radio, and co-founder of WNYC’s annual Martin Luther King, Jr. event.