Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration

2023: Social Justice Now

Our Annual Convocation

Our Annual Convocation will take place on February 9, 2023 with the theme this year being Social Justice Now.

Social Justice Now

In his “I Have a Dream” speech given at the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. issued a clarion call to heed “the fierce urgency of now.”

Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy.
Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice.
Now is the time to lift our nation from the quick sands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood.
Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God's children.

Sixty Years Later

The theme of Fairfield University’s Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration – “Social Justice Now” – invokes this idea of the “now” and invites us to consider what it means in 2023. In light of our current challenges – from climate change to the persistence of white supremacy, the suppression of voting rights, and ongoing struggles against racial inequities - Dr. King’s warned against taking “the tranquilizing drug of gradualism” and urged us to choose action against complacency and pessimism. In his last book Where Do We Go from Here?, Dr. King reminded us that “our very survival depends on our ability to stay awake, to adjust to new ideas, to remain vigilant and to face the challenge of change.”

2023 Convocation Speaker

Karsonya “Kaye” Wise Whitehead is the founding director of The Karson Institute for Race, Peace & Social Justice and an associate professor of communication and African and African American Studies at Loyola University Maryland. She is the host of the award-winning radio show Today with Dr. Kaye on WEAA, 88.9 FM, and the recent recipient of the Vernon Jarrett Medal for Journalistic Excellence for her outstanding reporting on the impact racial reckoning has had in helping to close social/racial wealth gap for Black people in America. Her scholarship examines the ways race, class, and gender coalesce in American classrooms and political and social environments. Her work and her scholarship in activism, race, and African American history, and her work in journalism have garnered national attention and awards.

She is the author of four books, including RaceBrave: new and selected works; Notes from a Colored Girl: The Civil War Pocket Diaries of Emilie Frances Davis, which received both the 2015 Darlene Clark Hine Book Award from the Organization of American Historians and the 2014 Letitia Woods Brown Book Award from the Association of Black Women Historians; and Letters to My Black Sons: Raising Boys in a Post-Racial America.

Dr. Whitehead is the former national secretary for the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH) and the current national president and interim executive director of the National Women’s Studies Association. Additionally, she writes a bi-monthly column, “Conversations with Dr. Kaye,” for the Baltimore Afro newspaper based upon her deep ethnographic study within the Black Butterfly neighborhoods of Baltimore City.

Karsonya Wise Whitehead headshot with vase in background.

Karsonya Wise Whitehead

Martin Luther King, Jr. Vision Award

The Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration Committee honors the legacy of Dr. King’s untiring commitment to racial justice, locating his lifelong efforts squarely within the Jesuit mission of our university.

Recognize Individuals

As a campus-wide group, we organize a series of events including a Convocation in recognition of the national MLK holiday. In furthering Dr. King’s legacy, we promote the struggle for racial justice as necessarily grounded in peace, love, nonviolence, and a recognition of human dignity. We align our mission with that of the University to encourage our community to develop and commit to a sense of social responsibility.

The Martin Luther King, Jr Celebration Committee will recognize individuals (faculty, staff, undergraduate and graduate students) whose record of personal and institutional achievement in areas of leadership and service reflect a strong commitment to advancing the ideals and values of Martin Luther King through courage, truth, justice, compassion, dignity, humility, and service.

Nomination Form

2022
Student: Mahfouz Soumare '22 and Nat Bush, MSW '22
Staff: Nakia Letang
Faculty: Sonya Huber, PhD

2021
Student: Nya Jones ‘23
Staff: Andrea Canuel
Faculty: Janie Leatherman, PhD

2020
Student: Luckario Alcide ‘21
Staff: Julie Bararo Mughal
Faculty: Silvia Marsans-Sakly, PhD

2019
Student: Sydney Williams ‘19
Staff: Sharon Daly
Faculty: Maggie Ann Labinski, PhD

2018
Student: Sophia Bolanos '18
Faculty: Dr. Kris Sealey

2017
Student: Anmol Tabassum '18
Faculty: Dr. Paul Lakeland
Staff: Dr. Ophelie Rowe-Allen

2016
Student: Michael Joe Harding '18
Faculty: Dr. Bryan Ripley Crandall
Staff: Sydney Johnson

2015
Student: Nicole Davidow '15
Faculty: Dr. Jocelyn Boryczka
Staff: Will Johnson

2014
Student: Eric Salgado ’14
Faculty: Dr. Yohuru Williams
Staff: Jocelyn Collen '06

2013
Student: Sharon Pedassa '13
Faculty: Dr. David Brown
Staff: Wylie Blake

2012
Student: Jasmine Fernandez '12
Faculty: Dr. Deb Chappell
Staff: Melissa Quan

2011
Student: Shawne Lomauro '11
Faculty: Meredith Marquez
Staff: Dr. Danke Li

2010
Student: Sarah L. Gatti '10
Community: Roberto Sanchez
Staff: Dr. Johana Garvey

2009
Student: Michael Cicirelli '10
Staff: Jim Fitzpatrick
Community: Denise Taylor
Faculty: Dr. Ellen Umansky

2008
Student: Peter Otoki ‘08
Student: Frank Fraioli ‘08
Faculty: Dr. Michael Tucker
Community: James Smith
Special: Sr Julianna Poole, SSND, PhD

2007
Student: Ashley Toombs '07
Community: Charles B Tisdale
Staff: Barbara Kiernan
Alumni: Danielle K. Hawthorne '91

2006
Faculty: Dr. Winston Tellis
Alumni: Paula Donovan '77 '88
Community: Dr. & Mrs. Barone
Student: Chrystie Cruz '07

2005
Community: Dr. Elizabeth Gardner
Community: Rev. Paul Merry
Alumni: Ellen Morgan esq '86
Student: Oriena Cowan '05
Student: Katherine Canner-O'Mealy '05

2004
Faculty: Dr. Judy Primavera
Community: George Bellinger
Alumni: Dr. Robert Smith Jr. '74
Student: Francesca Cobb '04
Student: Burim Gjidija '05

2003
University: Dr. Walter Petry
Community: Stanley Arrington

2002
University: Andre Willis
Alumni: Richard Fuller Sr. '77
Community: Rev. John S. Kidd
Community: Rev. Phyllis J Leopold

2001
Faculty: Dr. Elizabeth Hohl
Alumni: Edward Brennan '65
Alumni: Kathy Niznansky M'81
Alumni: Felipe Reinoso M'88

2022 Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration: Essay Contest - Jaedyn Pinkney

At Home and Abroad: A Roundtable Conversation with Robin D.G. Kelley

Celebration of Activism

2021 MLK Vision Award - Andrea Canuel

2021 MLK Vision Award - Dr. Janie Leatherman

2021 MLK Vision Award - Nya Jones

Ripple of Hope Scholarship

Are you impacting change through issues of racial justice, gender equality, environmental justice, immigration, or other issues? Share how you maintain a spirit of hope and dignity as you seek to change the world.

Apply Now