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.

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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 Wise Whitehead headshot with vase in background.

Karsonya Wise Whitehead

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.

More About Karsonya
Her Words

2023 Award Winners

Alfred Babo, PhD
Associate Professor of Sociology and Anthropology
Watch the Faculty Award Video

Julia Duffy, APRN, FNP-BC
Director of the Health Center
Watch the Staff Award Video

Aliyah Seenauth ’24
Vice President of FUSA
Watch the Student Award Video

Callie Gale Heilmann and Gemeem Davis
Co-Directors, Bridgeport Generation Now
Watch the Community Award Video

Schedule of Events

MLK Table Talk
Wednesday, February 8
2:30 p.m.
Kelley Center Presentation Room

Vision Award Reception
Wednesday, February 8
5 p.m.
Barone Campus Center Oak Room


MLK Convocation
Thursday, February 9
7 p.m.
Quick Center for the Arts

MLK Youth Leadership Academy
Friday, February 10
All Day
Barone Campus Center Oak Room

Celebration of Activism
Monday, February 13
5:30 p.m.
Kelley Center Presentation Room

Project X Screening
Wednesday, February 15 and Thursday, 16
5:30 p.m.

Learn More

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.

Mahfouz Soumare '22

Nat Bush, MSW '22

Sonya Huber, PhD

Nakia Letang

Kenneth Smith

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

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

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

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
Faculty: Meredith Marquez
Staff: Dr. Danke Li

Student: Sarah L. Gatti '10
Community: Roberto Sanchez
Staff: 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

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