Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Observance 2019
December 27, 2019
Albany, NY

Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to be Celebrated in Albany on Monday, January 20, 2020

Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to be Celebrated in Albany on Monday, January 20, 2020
Award-Winning Journalist and Novelist Jesse J. Holland to Give Keynote Address and Grammy-Nominated Gospel Singer Anita Wilson to Perform
Free Event Now Being Held in The Egg’s Hart Theatre

RoAnn Destito, Office of General Services Commissioner, today announced that New York State’s celebration of the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. will be held on January 20, 2020 at 9 a.m. in The Egg Center for the Performing Arts’ Hart Theatre at the Empire State Plaza. The public is invited to attend the free program in observance of Dr. King’s birth or watch it streamed live at empirestateplaza.ny.gov/nyking. The Be a King Volunteer Fair will begin at 9 a.m. in the Hart Lounge; a musical prelude will start in the Hart Theatre at 9 a.m., and the program will begin promptly at 10 a.m.

“Each year we celebrate the life and legacy of our nation’s most important civil rights leader by enjoying talented performers and inspirational speakers who pay tribute to Dr. King at the NYS MLK Memorial Observance. This year we are especially excited to have Jesse J. Holland giving the keynote address and gospel artist Anita Wilson singing,” Commissioner Destito said. “I join Governor Cuomo in inviting everyone to come in person or watch the live video of this important tradition at the Empire State Plaza where we rededicate ourselves to keeping Dr. King’s dream alive.”

This year’s keynote speaker is Jesse J. Holland, an internationally respected strategic thinker and inspirational speaker who has more than 20 years of public success as a nationally known political journalist, African American historian, and creative writing consultant.

The author of some of America’s top fiction, including the novel “Black Panther: Who Is the Black Panther?” and the award-winning nonfiction classic, “The Invisibles: The Untold Story of African American Slaves in the White House,” Holland is uniquely positioned in the intersection of African American history and Afrofuturism, as well as politics, journalism, creative writing, race, and culture. He is also the author of “Black Men Built The Capitol: Discovering African American History In and Around Washington, D.C.” and the junior novel “Star Wars: The Force Awakens - Finn’s Story.”

Holland was a longtime congressional, White House and Supreme Court writer for the Associated Press, and served as an AP Race & Ethnicity writer, as well as a weekend host for C-SPAN’s Washington Journal. He was also a statehouse reporter in Albany, New York and Columbia, South Carolina.

He teaches creative nonfiction in the Master of Fine Arts program at Goucher College in Towson, Maryland, and has taught journalism ethics at the School of Continuing Studies at Georgetown University and the University of Arkansas.

Holland was awarded a doctorate in Humane Studies from LeMoyne-Owen College in Memphis, Tennessee, and earned a Master of Fine Arts degree in Nonfiction from Goucher College, and a liberal arts degree from the University of Mississippi.

He was named the Distinguished Visiting Professor of Ethics in Journalism at the University of Arkansas in the fall of 2016.

This year’s celebration will include a special performance by Grammy-nominated gospel singer, songwriter, and music executive Ms. Anita Wilson.

A classic presence, unique vocal stylings, and approachable humility are just a few of Wilson’s attributes. After years of background singing with gospel artist Donald Lawrence & Company, Wilson emerged as a solo recording artist in 2011 with the soulful and heartfelt ballad “Speechless.”

Wilson has allowed her passion for God, music, and creative freedom to mark out a custom and relevant lane. Her debut album “Worship Soul” (2013), her sophomore album “Vintage Worship” (2015), and her third album “Sunday Song” were all Grammy-nominated for Best Gospel Album and prove to be timeless bodies of work.

The Dr. King Memorial Observance will also include a number of musical and theatrical tributes to Dr. King from local and regional performers, including by SUNY Oneonta’s Jazz Octet and World Percussion Student Ensembles under the creative directorship of Robert Roman and Dr. Julie Licata, the Dr. King Community Choir and Ensemble directed by Cliffton Patterson, and the Paul Robeson Theatre of Buffalo.

Following the formal program, the City of Albany’s “Beloved Community March” will begin at the Plaza concourse entrance on Madison Avenue. The march will conclude at the King Monument in Lincoln Park with a wreath-laying ceremony. A CDTA bus will be available for those requiring transportation to the monument.


There will also be several additional activities and displays at the Empire State Plaza, including:

  • The New York State Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Volunteer Fair.
  • Empire State Dr. King Quilt Display.
  • The New York State Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Student Art and Essay Exhibition, which will continue to be on view through February 29.
  • Commemorative Dr. King cookies provided by Price Chopper & Market 32.
  • Girl Scouts of Northeastern New York CANstruction.
  • MLK Dream Board display.


New to this year’s observance, the MLK Dream Board is a tribute to King’s “I Have a Dream” speech and will invite people attending the celebration to share their insights, ideas, and dreams for civil rights, economic justice, educational equality, and ending racism.

To honor Dr. King’s message throughout the year, several events are held to remind people of his vision for the community. These include The Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Statewide Food Drive, held December 13, 2019 to February 13, 2020; the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Statewide Children’s Book Drive, held February 24 to April 24; and the 2020 Dr. King Statewide Career Fair on April 2. 

The Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Observance will be streamed live, beginning at 10 a.m. on January 20 at empirestateplaza.ny.gov/nyking.

For up-to-the-minute information on the celebration, visit empirestateplaza.ny.gov/nyking, and follow @NYSMLK on Facebook and Twitter.