On January 15, the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) proudly hosted the 38th Annual Brooklyn Tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a deeply cherished event honoring the legacy of the civil rights leader. The gathering took place in the Howard Gilman Opera House and was accessible worldwide through a live-streamed broadcast.
Presented by BAM and Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso, this year’s event featured an empowering keynote speech by Freedom Reads founder Reginald Dwayne Betts. The program also featured a beautiful music performance by singer-songwriter Madison McFerrin. The award-winning Sing Harlem choir, under the direction of Ahmaya Knoelle Higginson, paid tribute to King through uplifting melodies, including soul-stirring performances of the Black national anthem, “Lift Every Voice,” and “We Shall Overcome.”
Influential civic leaders shared profound perspectives on King’s impact on the community and the ongoing pursuit of justice. Speakers included BAM President Gina Duncan, BAM Chief Civic Engagement Officer Coco Killingsworth, Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso, Governor Kathy Hochul, Mayor Eric Adams, Attorney General Letitia James, Senator Charles Schumer, Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez, Speaker of NYC City Council Adrienne Adams, Brooklyn DA Eric Gonzalez, Councilmember for NYC District 35 in Brooklyn Crystal Hudson, and Commissioner of Cultural Affairs for the City of New York Laurie Cumbo.
Each speaker reflected on King’s legacy and the collective responsibility to continue the fight for justice and equality.
After the tribute, the community screening of the new Netflix biopic “Rustin” took center stage in the BAM Rose Cinemas, paying homage to the life of Bayard Rustin, a pivotal figure in the Civil Rights Movement. The in-person introduction by Walter Naegle, Bayard Rustin’s real-life partner and executive director of the Bayard Rustin Fund, added a poignant and personal dimension to the event.
In addition, BAMkids Celebrates Martin Luther King, Jr.: Small Things in Great Ways was offered to families with young children. This program featured fun activities including music, movement, and crafts centered around family unity and positive change.