His 'dream' lives on

UC honors MLK in 'celebrating now, overcoming tomorrow' tribute

Through his famous “I have a dream” speech, Martin Luther King Jr.’s vision for America has endured for 60 years and is still being pursued across America and the University of Cincinnati.

In a packed, standing room-only crowd in UC’s African American Cultural and Resource Center (AACRC) on Wednesday, exuberant songs, speeches, spoken words and a feast of cultural delicacies highlighted an afternoon of celebrating King’s life and impact. 

With King’s work as a guide, the themed afternoon celebration, titled “Celebrating now, overcoming tomorrow,” went on to identify several UC and local pioneering activists and community members, focusing on their impact and contributions.

“Celebrating now means we have the faith that Dr. King’s dream will become reality,” says Eric Watford, AACRC program coordinator. “The dream wasn’t built in one night, but it resulted from years of pain and a manifestation of hope. It was an echoed dream cultivated and birthed from determination, words and longing for freedom. Freedom from hate, evil, despair and loneliness.”

Weaved throughout the afternoon were inspirational words by UC Provost Valerio Ferme. “While we strive to do better at this university we need to keep working toward better access and inclusion in many ways,” says Ferme. “How can we work together to undo some of the systemic issues universities have?”

Ferme described 33 initiatives he started a few years ago, some he has completed, some he has yet to start but, “We will keep going,” he says. “It’s been 60 years since Dr. King’s ‘I have a dream’ speech and we’re still overcoming that past.”

Make a career of humanity. Commit yourself to the noble struggle for equal rights. You will make yourself a better person, a greater nation of your country and a finer world to live in.

Martin Luther King Jr.

Among several heartfelt tributes, the central theme throughout the afternoon kept returning to King’s concept of servant leadership.

“Dr. King is admired for his courage, his brilliance, his integrity, but I think his most powerful gift to all of us was his wisdom,” said keynote speaker Denise Taliaferro Baszile, associate dean of diversity and student experience and professor at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. “His wise and inspiring words were meant to remind us to stoke our fire, to call us again and again to the work of justice, I have a dream."

It’s always the right time to do what’s right

Woman stands at a table of people at a MLK Day tribute.

Keynote speaker Denise Taliaferro Baszile shared words of wisdom she gleaned from her grandparents that inspired her to follow Martin Luther King Jr. and others who worked hard for equity and inclusion. Photo provided

“My grandparents communicated to me and their 47 other grandchildren and great-grandchildren that our power ‘to do’ relies not so much on what we are allowed to do as it does on our courage to act on those things we believe we must do to improve life for all those who are suffering,” added Baszile. “We can and we must be a part of changing our world.”

Before closing remarks, the annual Embodiment of Hope awards were given to UC pre-occupational therapy student Derrya L. Mathis, and Alana Calhoun, associate director of student success, UC College of Education, Criminal Justice, and Human Services.

On UC's medical campus, people filled Kresge Auditorium on Friday in the UC College of Medicine to remember the dream and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. They were part of the 50th annual MLK celebration ceremony hosted by the college and UC Health. Watch video of the event online.

Chris Lewis, MD, vice provost for academic programs at UC and a family medicine physician at UC Health, offered a keynote address titled ‘Radical Service’ to participants. 

“Everybody can be great because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. All you need is a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love," says Lewis.

“That quote from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stands out permanently in my heart for many reasons. My late parents entrusted that quote upon me. They were not college graduates. I am what you call a first generation college student.  My father didn’t graduate from high school. 

“But I tell you they always served and taught me how to serve. My earliest childhood memories are about packing up the car full of food during the holidays and dropping it off at the Freestore Foodbank in downtown Cincinnati even when we were struggling to make ends meet, and that service has rubbed off on me and has stayed there.”

In capping the events, the crowds were reminded to attend the annual MLK Coalition March on Monday morning, starting at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center and ending at Washington Park.

“Freedom, equity and equality are not fast solutions in the world we live in but if we continue to achieve them together we will be one step closer to realizing that dream,” added Watford to a roaring, standing ovation in UC's AACRC.

Co-sponsors for the event: UC’s Center for Community Engagement, University Honors Program and the UC Office of Equity, Inclusion and Community Impact.


Featured image at top: MLK memorial statue by Bee Calder, Unsplash

Diversity & Equity Lives Here

The University of Cincinnati is leading public urban universities into a new era of innovation, impact, diversity and equity. Our faculty, staff and students are saving lives, changing outcomes and bending the future in our city's direction. Next Lives Here.

Related Stories


His 'dream' lives on

January 13, 2023

In a packed standing room only crowd in UC’s African American Cultural and Resource Center (AACRC) on Wednesday, exuberant songs, speeches, spoken word and a feast of cultural delicacies highlighted an afternoon of celebrating Martin Luther King Jr's life and impact.


UC Answers: What’s it like to be a first-gen student?

November 8, 2020

Sydney King is a first-generation student studying special education in the University of Cincinnati’s College of Education, Criminal Justice, and Human Services (CECH). An ambassador to her college, King offers advice to other first-generation students .


WCPO: UC CECH student honored for philanthropy

August 26, 2020

Camryn Morrow, a third-year student majoring in human development and community engagement in UC’s College of Education, Criminal Justice, and Human Services, will be honored as Youth of the Year during the National Philanthropy Day celebration on Nov. 5 hosted by the Association of Fundraising Professionals of Greater Cincinnati.