MLK Week Takes Shape

Tuesday, Jan 09, 2018
Khady Gueye
Juilliard Journal
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Photo from an MLK Week performance last year
From the 2017 MLK celebration


I’m Here. This statement, while deceptively simple, is a profound reminder of the role that black people have continually played in the shaping of this country (involuntarily or otherwise). It is revolutionary when you consider that to this very day, America has gone to tremendous efforts to not only annihilate the black body, but also to obliterate any evidence that would even suggest black contribution. Contributions to what, you ask? Culture, language, music, fashion, food, art, infrastructure, the economy, modern medicine, science, invention; the list goes on. Contributions without which our nation would have been left in a stunted, stagnant state centuries ago.

Juilliard is not an exception to this, for it has also reaped the benefits of such gifts. It is true that most of the artistic curriculums offered are of Eurocentric origins (jazz being the prime exception). However, we cannot ignore the tremendous black talent that has traversed these hallowed halls and still does today. Their work both in and out of the school has helped launch the Juilliard name to tremendous heights. Legendary names such as Leontyne Price (’52, voice), Shirley Verrett (Diploma ’61, voice), Wynton Marsalis (’81, trumpet), Robert Battle (BFA ’94, dance), Stephen McKinley Henderson (Group 1), Keith David (Group 8), and Viola Davis (Group 22), to name a few, have all helped to make the reputation of this institution what it is today. Therefore, the statement I’m Here is not merely a statement. It is a call to remembrance and acknowledgement of what has always been. Among other festivities during Martin Luther King Jr. week, we commend this black existence and contribution with two special evenings in particular: Black Is Beautiful. Black Is Gold., which opens the week with a performance and discussion with members of Juilliard’s Black Student Union (Jan. 15), and the return of the Martin Luther King Jr. Lecture Series, this year featuring faculty member Renée Baron. We will be there as we have always been; will you?

Second-year singer Khady Gueye, a leader of Juilliard’s Black Student Union, holds the Paola Novikova Memorial Scholarship in Voice as well as the Olia and Michael Zetkin and Philo Higley scholarships

Members of the Juilliard community are welcome to attend MLK week events. See the schedule here.