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Diversity and Inclusion

38th Annual Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration—Dinner and Program

January 22, 2023 at 5:00pm9:00pm EST

The Dome

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The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., through his writings and his speeches, challenged all of us to find the courage to create positive change in a troubled world. He taught us the importance of listening to and learning from others. He shared his dream, offering a glimpse of what was possible. He inspired generations to chart a course of action, to have a real impact. Every year at the MLK Celebration, a group of Unsung Heroes is honored by Syracuse University for their selfless dedication to their community and for embodying the vision of Dr. King.

Rev. Phil Turner to Highlight Local Community as Speaker for 38th Annual Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration

Reverend Phil Turner of Bethany Baptist Church in Syracuse will serve as featured speaker at the 38th Annual Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration on Sunday, Jan. 22, 2023, in the JMA Wireless Dome at Syracuse University.

This year’s theme is: “Civil Rights and the City of Syracuse.” Tickets for the dinner and program are now available.

portrait of Reverend Phil Turner in Hendricks Chapel

Reverend Phil Turner (Photo by Amelia Beamish)

This annual event is the largest of its kind on any college campus. The program seeks to honor the message and mission of Dr. King and is a direct expression of Syracuse University’s commitment to advancing academic excellence at a university welcoming to all.

“As we prepare for our first in-person MLK Celebration since 2020, our planning team is committed to highlighting the people and possibilities of our local community,” says the Rev. Brian Konkol, dean of Hendricks Chapel. “I am honored to welcome Pastor Phil Turner as our featured speaker, as he embodies the spirit and soul of Syracuse. Through his proven leadership and hopeful vision, Pastor Turner is the right person to bring us all together.”

Turner was elected as the 12th pastor of Bethany Baptist Church on Feb. 19, 2007. Following his formal installation in April of 2007, he helped expand congregational impact through membership growth, facility renovations, increased access to transportation services, and improved engagement with civic organizations and community organizers. Turner led the development of a radio ministry, tutoring program and an annual festival that highlights African American heritage. Bethany Baptist Church also partners with the Syracuse City School District, sponsors clothing giveaways, and hosts numerous local and regional events.

In addition to earning music recording contracts with Warner Bros. and 4th and Broadway, Turner holds a bachelor of science in history and political science from Columbia College, a master of theological studies from Northeastern Seminary and a certificate in church management from Villanova University.

“When Dr. King spoke, his words were so piercing because they came from truth, his inner light and compassion,” says Rev. Turner. “We must accept the challenge to make everyone’s lives better. Leaders need to have a healthy appetite for change. They can’t be afraid.”

Our 2023 program marks the 38th year for the MLK Celebration, which will include an address from Turner, student and community group performances, a presentation of this year’s Unsung Hero Awards, and recognition of the 2022 and 2021 Unsung Hero Awardees previously honored through online celebrations.

New this year is an art gallery featuring works from local Black artists,  opening at 4:15 p.m. The traditional dinner—pulled BBQ pork, collard greens, sweet potato pie and more—will open at 5 p.m. Halal/Kosher, gluten-free and vegetarian options will be available. Dinner will be held near the JMA Dome’s west end zone, entry at Gate A. The main program with Rev. Turner and performers will be held from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at the east side. For program-only attendees, doors open at 6 p.m.

Ticket purchase options are as follows:

  • Syracuse University staff, faculty, and the general public (dinner and program): $30
  • Students (dinner and program): $15
  • Main program only: FREE

Registration is required for all ticket purchase options.

All dinner tickets will be assigned a table number at the time of purchase, which will be included in the mobile tickets. Guests interested in sitting with friends are recommended to purchase tickets together to ensure the same table assignment.

Guests may order up to 10 dinner and program tickets online. To purchase one full table (10 seats), select 10 total tickets and proceed to checkout. To purchase more than one table or more than 10 individual tickets, or if experiencing difficulties, please call the JMA Dome Box Office at 1.888.DOME.TIX (315.443.2121), option four.

All dinner guests will be seated in the 100 level of the stands for the program following dinner. All guests attending the program only will be seated in the 200 level. Seating is general admission in those areas for the program.

Buy tickets online at, in person at the Dome Box Office inside Gate B at 900 Irving Ave. (Monday through Friday 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.) or by phone (888.DOME.TIX or 315.443.2121, option four). Tickets will be mobile this year and uploaded directly to your MyCuse account to manage upon purchase. View the step-by-step guide on mobile ticketing for more information.

Free parking is available in the Irving Avenue Garage and in lots west of the JMA Dome. Visit the University’s Parking and Transit Services website for maps and directions. American Sign Language (ASL) interpretation and Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART) will be available for the event. Accessible seating is provided on the concourse level of the JMA Dome.

For more information about the MLK Celebration or to request accommodations, contact Hendricks Chapel at or 315.443.2901. Learn more about this and other Hendricks Chapel events by visiting

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This event was first published on December 7, 2022 and last updated on December 15, 2022.

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