2020 Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration

The Challenge of Change: Intersectional Justice and Democracy

The 2020 Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Committee invites the Fairfield community to consider the challenge of intersectional justice in our democracy. In recognition of the 50th anniversary of women students at Fairfield University and of the centennial of the Nineteenth Amendment, The Challenge of Change asks us to consider ongoing struggles for women’s rights and gender justice in light of the Jesuit mission of Fairfield University. In calling us to “face the challenge of change,” Dr. King warned of “protectors of the status quo and its fraternities of the indifferent.” This is an invitation to think about how our commitment to racial justice must account for other forms of identity and social power, including class, sexuality, age, religion, ability, and gender. These multiple facets of our identities are not separate from one another: they intersect, connect and overlap. Together they determine our experiences of oppression, inequality, advantage or privilege. As Civil Rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer reminded us: “nobody is free until everybody’s free.”

The annual Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration is a week-long series of events that seeks to engage students, staff, faculty, and our local communities in a dialogue about justice and the recognition of all human dignity. This includes a gospel mass, a celebration of activism, workshops, and a convocation address held at the Quick Center. The 2020 convocation speaker is the award-winning investigative journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones.

2020 Convocation Speaker

Nikole Hannah-Jones

Nikole Hannah-JonesNIKOLE HANNAH-JONES was named a MacArthur Genius for “reshaping national conversations around education reform”. This is but one honor in a growing list: she’s won a Peabody, a Polk, and a National Magazine Award for her story on choosing a school for her daughter in a segregated city. Most recently, her New York Times Magazine’s The 1619 Project, on the history and legacy of American slavery, went viral and garnered her even more honors for her groundbreaking journalism.

Nikole Hannah-Jones covers racial injustice for The New York Times Magazine, and has spent years chronicling the way official policy has created—and maintains—racial segregation in housing and schools. Her deeply personal reports on the black experience in America offer a compelling case for greater equity. She is the lead writer on the New York Times' major multimedia initiative, The 1619 Project. Named for the year the first enslaved Africans arrived in America, the project features an ongoing series of essays and art on the relationship between slavery and everything from social infrastructure and segregation, to music and sugar—all by Black American authors, activists, journalists and more. Nothing we know about American life today has been untouched by the legacy of slavery, and the 1619 Project quickly went viral, spreading its heartbreaking, unprecedented, and absolutely essential message worldwide. In November 2019, Random House announced that they will be adapting the project into a graphic novel, and four publications for young readers; as well as releasing an extended version of the original publication, including more essays, fiction and poetry.

She has written extensively on the history of racism, school resegregation, and the disarray of hundreds of desegregation orders, as well as the decades-long failure of the federal government to enforce the landmark 1968 Fair Housing Act. She is currently writing a book on school segregation called The Problem We All Live With, to be published on the One World imprint of Penguin/Random House. Her piece “Worlds Apart” in The New York Times Magazine won the National Magazine Award for “journalism that illuminates issues of national importance” as well as the Hillman Prize for Magazine Journalism. In 2016, she was awarded a Peabody Award and George Polk Award for radio reporting for her This American Life story, “The Problem We All Live With.” She was named Journalist of the Year by the National Association of Black Journalists, and was also named to 2019’s The Root 100 as well as Essenece’s Woke 100. Her reporting has also won Deadline Club Awards, Online Journalism Awards, the Sigma Delta Chi Award for Public Service, the Fred M. Hechinger Grand Prize for Distinguished Education Reporting, and the Emerson College President’s Award for Civic Leadership.

Hannah-Jones co-founded the Ida B. Wells Society for Investigative Reporting with the goal of increasing the number of reporters and editors of color. She holds a Master of Arts in Mass Communication from the University of North Carolina and earned her BA in History and African-American studies from the University of Notre Dame. For the Institute for Advanced Journalism Studies, she investigated social changes under Raul Castro and the impact of universal healthcare on Cuba’s educational system. She was also selected by the University of Pennsylvania to report on the impact of the Watts Riots for a study marking the 40th anniversary of the Kerner Commission report. Along with The New York Times, her reporting has been featured in ProPublica, The Atlantic Magazine, Huffington Post, Essence Magazine, The Week Magazine, Grist, Politico Magazine, and on Face the Nation, This American Life, NPR, The Tom Joyner Morning Show, MSNBC, C-SPAN, Democracy Now, and radio stations across the country.


Gospel Concert

Sunday, January 26
7 p.m.
Egan Chapel


Celebration of Activism

Monday, January 27
5 p.m.
The Tully Lobby

The purpose of the Celebration of Activism event is to honor the legacy of Dr. King and continue to champion the efforts to raise awareness on the commitment to racial justice. This student-led event has great learning opportunities for students and the entire University community. The MLK events are a major part of our commitment to enhancing inclusion and engagement at Fairfield University and to continuing to make the university an ever-closer example of King's beloved community.


The New Mosaic Performance and Lecture featuring Noah Baerman from Resonant Motion Inc.

Tuesday, January 28
6 p.m.
Barone Campus Center Lower Level

Following the 2017 release of her debut solo EP, "Young", Erica T. Bryan of West End Blend brings her powerhouse vocals to a fresh neo-soul project. Together, with Tom Sullivan (West End Blend), Mike Carabello (The Lost Tribe), and Dwayne Keith (Keepers of the Vibe) the quartet lays down a collage of R&B, funk and jazz inspired by the artistry of Erykah Badu, Chaka Khan, Sade and more. Erica T. Bryan and friends present: The New Mosaic.

Noah Baerman from Resonant Motion Inc. will kick the night off prior to Erica & the New Mosaic performance and will speak about his non-profit organization in New Haven, Resonant Motion Inc., and share some of his own music that he has created inspired by Dr. King.


Vision Award Dinner

Wednesday, January 29
5 p.m.
Barone Campus Center Oak Room


MLK Convocation: Nikole Hannah-Jones

Wednesday, January 29
8 p.m.
Quick Center for the Arts


“Democracy and 1619?” A Panel Discussion about the New York Times 1619 Project

In partnership with “Civic Education through the Promise of Democracy,” Davis Educational Foundation grant 2019-2021

Thursday, January 30
5-7 p.m.
Barone Campus Center Dogwood Room
Sponsored by the College of Arts and Sciences

Refreshments will be served.


Youth Academy

Friday, January 31
10 a.m. – 1 p.m.
Barone Campus Center Oak Room

To introduce methods of self-expression such as spoken words and story writing as tools to create change and to improve their community.

Vision Award Winners


Student: Sydney Williams ‘19
Staff: Sharon Daly
Faculty: Maggie Ann Labinski, PhD



Student: Sophia Bolanos '18
Faculty: Dr. Kris Sealey



Student: Anmol Tabassum '18
Faculty: Dr. Paul Lakeland
Staff: Dr. Ophelie Rowe-Allen



Student: Michael Joe Harding '18
Faculty: Dr. Bryan Ripley Crandall
Staff: Sydney Johnson



Student: Nicole Davidow '15
Faculty: Dr. Jocelyn Boryczka
Staff: Will Johnson



Student: Eric Salgado ’14
Faculty: Dr. Yohuru Williams
Staff: Jocelyn Collen '06



Student: Sharon Pedassa '13
Faculty: Dr. David Brown
Staff: Wylie Blake



Student: Jasmine Fernandez '12
Faculty: Dr. Deb Chappell
Staff: Melissa Quan



Student: Shawne Lomauro '11
Staff: Meredith Marquez
Faculty: Dr. Danke Li



Student: Sarah L. Gatti '10
Community: Roberto Sanchez
Faculty: Dr. Johana Garvey




Student: Michael Cicirelli '10
Staff: Jim Fitzpatrick
Community: Denise Taylor
Faculty: Dr. Ellen Umansky



Student: Peter Otoki ‘08
Student: Frank Fraioli ‘08
Faculty: Dr. Michael Tucker
Community: James Smith
Special: Sr Julianna Poole, SSND, PhD



Student: Ashley Toombs '07
Community: Charles B Tisdale
Staff: Barbara Kiernan 
Alumni: Danielle K. Hawthorne '91



Faculty: Dr. Winston Tellis
Alumni: Paula Donovan '77 '88
Community: Dr. & Mrs. Barone
Student: Chrystie Cruz '07



Community: Dr. Elizabeth Gardner
Community: Rev. Paul Merry
Alumni: Ellen Morgan esq '86
Student: Oriena Cowan '05
Student: Katherine Canner-O'Mealy '05



Faculty: Dr. Judy Primavera
Community: George Bellinger
Alumni: Dr. Robert Smith Jr. '74
Student: Francesca Cobb '04
Student: Burim Gjidija '05



University: Dr. Walter Petry
Community: Stanley Arrington



University: Andre Willis
Alumni: Richard Fuller Sr. '77
Community: Rev. John S. Kidd
Community: Rev. Phyllis J Leopold



Faculty: Dr. Elizabeth Hohl
Alumni: Edward Brennan '65
Alumni: Kathy Niznansky M'81
Alumni: Felipe Reinoso M'88

Contact Us

For more information, contact:

Ophelie Rowe-Allen, EdD

Associate Dean and Director Residence Life & Diversity
(203) 254-4000 ext. 4215


Sunil Purushotham, PhD

Assistant Professor of History