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SU's 36th Annual MLK Celebration Goes Virtual, Features Familiar Elements, Some Surprises

provided photo
Tom Dumont

The annual tradition that normally draws thousands to Syracuse University to celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. will be virtual this year.  But organizers like Dean of Hendricks Chapel Brian Konkol say it’s still drawing plenty of interest. 

"We're incredibly excited.  The registration turnout has been fantastic.  We've been quite frankly overjoyed and overwhelmed by the positive reaction."

Konkol says after 36 years, the program already has a tremendous following.  But he says this time, they’re not limited by a physical location.

"One of the advantages of having something online is that this now isn't just a Syracuse event, but now it's a regional event, a national event, and even an international event.  We already have registrations from around the world.  So it has broadened this experience."

He says they’ve naturally made a few accommodations for the different format, but the program will still feature many familiar elements.

"From Unsung Hero Awards to performers to a keynote spekaer...we will see those things again here.  What we've also done is it that we integrate more fully into the city of Syracuse.  We will film it from a variety of locations that people will love to see around the city.  It'll bring some new elements, some surprises this year."

This year’s keynote speaker is civil rights icon, activist, and author Ruby Bridges, whom Konkol says is the right guest at the right time.

"Although history might not repeat itself, history does tend to rhyme.  Much of what Ruby Bridges was engaging with in her own life as a 6-year-old integrating schools in the US South [in 1960], we see the rhythm and rhyme of that in 2021.  Questions around equality, opportunity, and the role of education as an instrument for freedom."

The theme for this year’s program is “Our time has come.”  It will be held Sunday at 7 p.m.  Virtual admission is free, but registrationis required.

Scott Willis covers politics, local government, transportation, and arts and culture for WAER. He came to Syracuse from Detroit in 2001, where he began his career in radio as an intern and freelance reporter. Scott is honored and privileged to bring the day’s news and in-depth feature reporting to WAER’s dedicated and generous listeners. You can find him on twitter @swillisWAER and email him at