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Community members gather for MLK day celebration

Students, faculty and guests of diverse backgrounds came together at the “13th Annual Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial: There Is No Him Without Us” show on Monday night to hear from guest speakers and watch performers “celebrate Black excellence,” according to the Brandeis Events website.

By the end of the night, most of the people in the Shapiro Campus Center Theater had become a part of the show and were on their feet, singing and dancing along with the performers.

The DMJ United Voices of Praise Choir, a Gospel Choir that aims “to keep Ministry first, show love and work in ‘Excellence Without Excuse,’” according to their Facebook page, sang for about one hour of the three and a half hour show.

After the performance of their first song, the group invited the audience members who weren’t already standing to stand and sing along. The lead singer of the gospel group invited anyone who wanted prayer to come to the front, where one of the members of the choir would pray over them, and she offered to hold worship services at Brandeis once a month if the audience wanted. Several students raised their hands.

The choir, which had performed at Brandeis in the past, excited many students who had seen them in previous years. “I’m most excited to see the Gospel Choir perform,” said Cyril Ojilere ’21. “I came to the event this year to remember the efforts of Martin Luther King Jr. and to be empowered by the singers’ passion.” Ojilere, who was one of the many students dancing along to the choir’s set, was also a performer in this year’s show.

This year’s event, which was created to commemorate Martin Luther King Jr. Day, also commemorated the upcoming 50th anniversary of the Department of African and Afro-American Studies at Brandeis. The event had a variety of acts including choreographed dances, poetry, vocal performances, speeches and a recitation of one of King’s speeches.

Performers included Sankofa, Kwesi Jones ’21, Bethlehem, Toxic, Chari Calloway ’19, Maria Aranibar (GRAD), Christian Nuñez ’19. Alumni performers included Nyah Macklin ’16, Cary Weir Lytle ’98 and keynote speaker, Alex Montgomery ’17.

Montgomery’s speech was about the “forgotten and minimized” key members of the Civil Rights Movement, especially the women and queer members of the movements. Among the lists of “forgotten names” were Bayard Rustin and Pauli Murray, a former professor at Brandeis.

Montgomery said that Brandeis’ Gender and Sexuality Center would “be a great dedicated space in her honor.” The audience cheered, clapped, and snapped during her speech as they did for most of the other performances.

“The whole thing was so overwhelming,” said Laura Peacock ’22. “I had chills the entire time.”

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