Celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. and Black History Month

LaTosha Brown stands, leaning on her desk, surrounded by whiteboards covered in writing
Black Votes Matter co-founder LaTosha Brown will speak at the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration.

ALBANY, N.Y. (Feb. 16, 2021) — LaTosha Brown, the cofounder of Black Voters Matter and a fellow at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, will be the keynote speaker in the 2021 Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Event at 7 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 22.

Brown’s appearance is timely as Black Voters Matters was one of the engines that mobilized and engaged the Black voting bloc in the Southeast, both in the run-up to November’s general election and in last month’s special election in Georgia. Her remarks will focus on racial and social justice in public policy, including voter rights and the power of coalition building.

President Havidán Rodríguez will make opening remarks, and there will be a recorded message from Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms.

Prior to the pandemic, the annual event MLK Luncheon was an in-person event and major part of the University’s celebration of Black History Month. This year it will be held virtually, and you can register to attend via Zoom. For more information, email [email protected].

The other major event in the University’s Black History Month celebration is the installation of the New York State Museum’s exhibit “The First Step to Freedom,” which opened Monday in the Great Hall of Campus Center West.

The exhibition includes panels on the civil rights movement, an audio recording of a 26-minute speech that Martin Luther King gave in 1962, and a copy of a draft of Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation with Lincoln’s own handwritten editing notes. It will also feature the public unveiling of a just-completed portrait of King and Lincoln by artist Robert Francis Whalen, who lives in Columbia County.

The exhibit was made possible by the New York State Museum, Department of Education, State Library, and State Archives, and coordinated by the NYS Writers Institute.

The Writers Institute also has a series of events honoring Black History Month and featuring prominent Black authors, including Mateo Askaripour, author of the debut novel Black Buck; Eddie S. Glaude Jr., author of Democracy in Black: How Race Still Enslaves the American Soul and the book Begin Again: James Baldwin's America and Its Urgent Lessons for Our Own; and Bob Herbert, longtime columnist for The New York Times whose 2017 documentary AGAINST ALL ODDS: The Fight for a Black Middle Class explores the often heroic efforts of Black families to pursue the American dream in the face of unrelenting barriers.

The Mateo Askaripour interview will premiere 11 a.m. Wednesday. Dates of the other interviews will be announced shortly. All events will be featured on the Writers Institute website and may be watched at your convenience following the premieres.

Further events celebrating Black History Month

  • A Global Culinary Celebration for lunch and dinner Wednesdays at the Purple Plate in the Campus Center. This Wednesday, enjoy an African heritage menu, and on Feb. 24, experience Soul Jam 2021, a traditional Southern menu paired with music and hosted by the National Congress of Black Women (UAlbany chapter).
  • C.H.A.R.G.E. is presenting a series of movies and events via Zoom. Tonight's movie is American Skin at 7:30. This Thursday is a music and game night at 7 p.m. On Feb. 23 at 6 p.m. it’s Black American Dream, featuring ASUBA, NAACP and ASA. And on Feb. 25 it’s Black in America, time TBA. For more information and for the Zoom links email Jameelee Ford.