Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Portrait
Commissioned by Canisius College in 1991-1992, the interpretive painting of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (MLK) represents the first artwork in the ALANA Art Series. This painting is an original work by local artist William Yancy Cooper. Cooper earned his Bachelors of Fine Arts degree from the State University at Buffalo. He has created murals at several institutions, including two local libraries. His work has been showcased at Hallwalls Contemporary Art Center and the Castellani Art Museum at Niagara University.
The MLK Art Project was orchestrated by the College’s MLK Celebration Committee. This committee was co-chaired by students Audrey Harvey ’92 and Orniece Hill ’94,’01. An unveiling and public reception took center stage April 15, 1992 in the Grupp Fireside Lounge of the Richard E. Winter ’42 Student Center. Leslie Dixie, at the time a State University of New York at Buffalo graduate student who was also serving as intern in Canisius’ Office of Multicultural Programs, now the ALANA Student Center, played an active role in the development of the art project.
Prior to the months that led up to the unveiling of Cooper’s work, the College held a campus MLK poetry contest for students. Martin J. Meyler ’93, an English major, won first-place. His winning poem, "The Echo," continues to accompany the MLK portrait located in the lower level of the College’s Andrew L. Bouwhuis Library. The winning poem is presented below.
By Martin J. Meyler © 1991
With a clarity of voice
With a resonance of sixty million
The dark Lincoln sang out
And awoke a nation from its sleep
With the promise of a dream
Where night would no longer be
A series of white brilliance
Supported and defined by a
Black void, but a night of
Celebration: an envelopment of life.
By killing the instrument
They tried to silence his voice.
As if the sorrow-song of centuries
Could be contained in a human form
As if the loss of the Ark was
The end of the Covenant.
But the voice rose form the vessel
And ascended the sky
Singing a new son: neither of
Black nor White, but of Gold.
It was a song of release;
We are living in its echo.