Queens College to host Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration honoring journalist and scholar Jelani Cobb

Jelani Cobb, dean of the Columbia Journalism School and staff writer for The New Yorker. (Photo courtesy of Queens College)

In commemoration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Queens College will host a celebration honoring Jelani Cobb, dean of the Columbia Journalism School and staff writer for The New Yorker, and a performance featuring Grammy-nominated jazz singer Samara Joy, on Sunday, Jan. 15. 

Queens College President Frank Wu will host the event, which is scheduled to begin at 3 p.m. in the LeFrak Concert Hall inside the school’s music building. New York City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams, Queens Borough President Donovan Richards Jr. and Assemblyman and alumnus Khaleel Anderson will also be in attendance.

“The Queens College community feels an enormous sense of pride in presenting the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day commemoration because it is a reaffirmation of our mission in preparing our students to serve as innovative leaders in a diverse world that they make more equitable and inclusive,” Wu said. “They have as their example the ideals embodied by our alumni — among them Andrew Goodman, who was slain, along with fellow civil rights workers James Chaney and Michael Schwerner, in Mississippi in 1964 — whose work and extensive civil rights activism is documented in a special collections archive in the Benjamin S. Rosenthal Library on campus.”

The college’s longstanding history of involvement in the struggle for equality and social justice is epitomized by Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner, for whom the library’s clock tower is named. King saluted the three young men in 1965 as the inaugural speaker in the college’s John F. Kennedy Memorial Lecture Series in Colden Auditorium, saying, “it was Queens College that gave to America, and indeed to the world, Andrew Goodman, whose creative witness will certainly live for generations yet unborn. He, along with others, paid the supreme price for this struggle and I’m sure that we will see in many ways that his death was not in vain.”

Cobb, an award-winning essayist and journalist born in Queens, most recently served as an associate professor of history and director of the Africana Studies Institute at the University of Connecticut. 

His books include “The Substance of Hope: Barack Obama and the Paradox of Progress” as well as “To the Break of Dawn: A Freestyle on the Hip Hop Aesthetic.” His pieces have appeared in national publications, and he has contributed to a number of anthologies, among them “Defense of Mumia,” “Testimony,” “Mending the World” and “Beats, Rhymes and Life.” He is a graduate of Howard University and of Rutgers University, where he received a doctorate in American history.

Joy, 22, has been nominated for two 2023 Grammy awards for new artist and for jazz vocal album. Her social media presence, combined with appearances on the “Today Show,” “Kelly Clarkson Show” and “Late Show with Stephen Colbert,” has helped introduce jazz standards to a new generation. Adding complexity to her body of work is her use of vocalese, a jazz technique showcased across her album “Linger Awhile.” Inspired by a jazz transcription class that Joy took with trumpet master Jon Faddis at SUNY Purchase, she wrote her own lyrics to previously recorded improvised jazz melodies.

Tickets are $20 and may be purchased online here. Discounts are available for Queens College students, faculty and staff, including a 50% discount for students. For more information, contact the Kupferberg Center Box Office by phone at 718-793-8080 or email [email protected].

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