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USC’s Black Staff and Faculty Caucus held its annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration on Jan. 22 with a lively program of student performances and a stirring speech by R&B singer, television producer and fashion entrepreneur Nicci Gilbert-Daniels.
“Dr. Martin Luther King spoke about equality,” Gilbert-Daniels said in her keynote address. “I’m here to take that a step further and talk about the vision that positions you to help other people accomplish their dreams.”
The two-hour program featured gospel singing, spoken-word performances and dance, along with video excerpts from King’s legendary “I Have a Dream” speech and President Lyndon B. Johnson’s signing statement upon passage of the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965. This year marks the historic legislation’s 50th anniversary.
The noontime tribute, held in Bovard Auditorium, included nearly 200 students from Lenicia B. Weemes Elementary School, just west of the University Park Campus.
The program featured an inspirational talk by ordained minister and USC communications student Princeton Parker, who is also director of the USC Saved by Grace Gospel Choir and a member of the executive board of the Black Student Assembly.
“If it were not for the man who we celebrate today,” Parker told the audience, “I wouldn’t be here. I’m excited because his life means I get to have my life.”
Now in its 34th year, the annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration is held on a Thursday to avoid conflict with parades and celebrations held throughout the Southland, according to Cynthia Brass, director of 100-member USC Black Staff and Faculty Caucus.
Corliss Bennett-McBride, director of the Center for Black Cultural and Student Affairs, emceed the event, which also included the original slam poem “Thank You,” by USC Rossier School of Education graduate student Jay Dent; a spoken-word performance titled “Dreams” by visual arts and psychology major Azmera Hammouri-Davis; a soulful interpretation of the Destiny’s Child hit “Stand Up for Love,” performed by freshman pop music major Celeste Butler; and an African-inspired original dance by Olubusola George, a Nigerian-born undergraduate majoring in French and political science.
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