Expressions of King's Legacy

Published Jan. 21, 2014

Tavis Smiley headlines RIT Expressions of King’s Legacy Celebration on campus Jan. 30
NPR talk show host also moderates community panel discussion of 1964 Race Riots

Tavis Smiley, national talk show host, author and community advocate, will be the keynote speaker for the 2014 Expressions of King’s Legacy Celebration at Rochester Institute of Technology.

The event takes place from noon to 2 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 30, in RIT’s Gordon Field House and Activities Center. Doors will open at 10:30 a.m.

Smiley has been named one of the 10 most influential people by Time Magazine. His Tavis Smiley daily radio show is in its 10th year on PBS, and as its host, he is an outspoken advocate for racial and gender equity.

He will touch upon these topics as part of his keynote address at RIT.

Joining Smiley for the Expressions program will be Curtis Babers, a fourth-grader from Houston, Texas, who won the 2013 Gardere Martin Luther King Jr. Oratory Competition. Also performing will be RIT poets Alexis Harris, Lakeishia Brown, Michelle Sason, and local singer Whitney Morrison.

The agenda for the program is

12 p.m. Welcome video
12:05 p.m. RIT President Bill Destler opens event
12:08 p.m. RIT student-poets perform
12:15 p.m. Musical performance
12:28 p.m. Curtis Babers presentation
12:35 p.m. Tavis Smiley keynote address
1:40 - 1:50 p.m. Closing remarks and music

“We are always looking to present speakers and programs that will resonate with the community and be relevant to their experiences,” says Kevin McDonald, RIT’s vice president for diversity and inclusion. “We chose Tavis Smiley this year because in addition to his keynote address, he will moderate a panel of men and women from the city of Rochester who were connected to the 1964 riots, and who will discuss the state of race and ethnicity 50 years after this significant event.”

The community panels for “The State of Race in Rochester: 50 Years after the July ’64 Race Riots” take place at 6 - 8 p.m. at East High School. The event is free, but registration is required as there is limited seating in the high school’s auditorium.

A “Pioneers” panel, opening the event from 6 – 7 p.m., includes Connie Mitchell, Rev. John Walker, Carvin Eison, Moses Gilbert, Franklin Florence, Julio Vasquez, Ruth Scott and Peter Oddleifson.

A “New Wave and Future Leaders Panel” follows at 7:15 p.m. and includes Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren, Sophie Gallivan, Rochester City School District Board of Education student representative, student, Wilson Magnet, Brandon Rogers, Ayaan Haji, Leonard Brock, executive for special projects at The Children’s Agenda; Heidi-Zimmer-Meyer, president, Rochester Downtown Development Corp.; RIT communications student Tiana Manon and Paris Bryant.

Additional commemorative events continue Friday and Saturday on the RIT campus, including RIT’s Gospelfest at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 30, in Ingle Auditorium in RIT’s Student Alumni Union. Tickets for the event are $5 for college students with ID, $10 for RIT faculty/staff and $15 for the general public.

On Saturday, Feb. 1, the university will host a Harlem Renaissance-themed evening of music and poetry at 6 p.m. in RIT’s Student Alumni Union, Al Davis Cafeteria. Featured performers are nationally-known Def Poetry artists Alysia Harris and recording artist Dwele. The latter event is free and open to the general public.

Note: Registration is required for the opening event and keynote address, can be done online. General admission tickets costing $1 per individual and $25 for groups will be needed for entry into the field house on the day of the event. Tickets are available online, by calling the Gordon Field House Box Office at 585-475-4121 and at the Gordon Field House Box Office. Expressions of Kings Legacy is coordinated by RIT’s Office for Diversity and Inclusion and supported by campus and community partners. For additional event information, go to or email