In the midst of weekly protests in Washington Square Park, NYU invites students to reflect on a time even more tumultuous than our own — the 1960s. NYU’s 12th annual Martin Luther King Week celebration titled “Essence of a True Revolution” stretches from today until Feb. 11.
Its signature university-wide event on Thursday will feature speakers such as actress and activist Rosie Perez, author and advocate Janet Mock, former NFL player Wade Davis and NYU Journalism Professor Pamela Newkirk. It includes performances by NYU alum Amy Leon and Steinhardt sophomore Patience Carter. This year’s theme will focus on lighting a spark under the brewing social revolution and its relevance in today’s
Steinhardt graduate student Gee Salas, Vice President of NYU’s Graduate Student Organization, oversees the MLK oratorical contest scheduled for Tuesday in which graduate and doctoral students create original speeches that relate to this year’s theme.
“[The theme] important to me, because I am a daughter of immigrants,” Salas said. “I am a first-generation student, a woman of color; there are so many systems that are supposed to work against me. We have a lot of students here with differences and all of MLK’s work was about that.”
Salas also oversees all the social media accounts for MLK Week, introducing a new, contemporary aspect to the established tradition.
“The committee knew what to do already, but at the same time they’re open to new ideas,” Salas said. “We all bring different perspectives and ideas to the table. Everyone’s open and welcoming and very passionate about this event.”
Along with Salas, Rose Ampuero, Assistant of Student Affairs at Tandon, oversees the week’s events at NYU Tandon’s Brooklyn campus. She also works as part of a larger committee, whose dedication ensures that the week runs smoothly.
“The committee meets regularly beginning in September,” Ampuero said. “We are divided into sub-committees and [put] in our ‘two cents’ for the larger university-wide event. We also work with various departments across the university.”
Despite all of the community member’s long hours and hard work, the busiest man during the week will be Monroe France, NYU’s Associate Vice President for Student Affairs and Diversity Initiatives. As the chair of the MLK Week Planning Committee, France understands the importance of finding the ‘Essence of a True Revolution.’
“For some of us, we’re going to find that our role is to be at the forefront and be the people that lead visibly,” France said. “Others will say that the essence of being revolutionary is using your skill set to organize people and not as much in having to be out in the forefront and being a speaker or an orator like King was.”
Despite the political turmoil of the past three weeks, France believes that MLK week comes at just the right time.
“I think that’s a part of revolutionary change,” France said. “People need to do something. People need to be a part of showing up and being active, and it looks very different for different people. I think we’re at a time in which this theme really causes us to reflect on where we’re going to show up.”
A version of this article appeared in the Monday, Feb. 6 print edition. Email Han Wang at [email protected]