Expressions of King’s Legacy

For 40 years, Expressions of King’s Legacy programming has been dedicated to celebrating the life and impact of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The event is free and open to the public.

January 27, 2022

headshot of Henry Louis Gates men dancing and drumming

Keynote: Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Emmy Award Winning Filmmaker, Cultural Critic & Journalist & performer WOMBA Africa Drumming and Dance

Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. is an Emmy and Peabody Award winning filmmaker, cultural critic and journalist and host of the popular genealogy television series “Your Roots” now in its seventh season on PBS. He has created twenty-three documentary films with his newest series, The Black Church: This Is Our Story, This Is Our Song on PBS. Gates has authored or co-authored twenty-five books. He is the director of the Hutchins Center for African and African-American Research at Harvard. He earned his undergraduate degree from Yale University and his M.A. and Ph.D. in English Literature from Clare College at Cambridge.

Womba Africa is a cultural drum and dance group formed in the town of Nungua. The members are part of the Ga Adangbe People in greater Accra, Ghana, a tribe with a very rich history and culture quite distinct from other major ethnic groups. The Womba Africa band typically performs in the Ga language.

Past Speakers

Headshot of Bakari

2021
Keynote: Bakari Sellers

Fredricka Whitfield Headshot

2017
Keynote: Fredricka Whitfield
Performances: Fisk Jubilee Singers

Tavis Smiley Headshot

2014
Keynote: Tavis Smiley
Performances: Curtis Babers

Julianne Malveaux Headshot

2013
Keynote: Julianne Malveaux
Performances: THREE MO’ TENORS, The Meeting – a play by Jeff Stetson

Nikki Giovanni Headshot

2011
Keynote: Nikki Giovanni
Performances: Aeolian, David Johnson

History

The Black Awareness Coordinating Committee (BACC) was formed during the Spring 1969 quarter at the Rochester Institute of Technology. The purpose of the group was “to foster and sustain an awareness of Black people being an integral part of our nation’s society.”  

In 1977, the organization touted itself as being the only organization “run exclusively for and by minority students.” At the time, the group’s membership consists mostly of Black and Puerto Rican undergraduates, though several graduate students belonged to the organization as well. Some of the programs sponsored by BACC included a Black student orientation, Black Awareness Week, and Educational Day, which introduced inner-city high school students to the world of higher education.

In 1982, the Commission for Promoting Pluralism partnered with BACC to deliver the annual celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. That April, the Commission held what was then called the Conference on Racism. Twenty years later, in 2002, the Commission renamed the conference to the Expressions of Diversity Conference. Then in 2010, the Annual Celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King was combined into a week-long celebration—Expressions of King’s Legacy. In 2012, the program was moved under the Office for Diversity & Inclusion, continuing with the name of Expressions of King’s Legacy. Many campus members played an important role in the start of this celebration and the continuing of it as the longest standing diversity program at RIT.