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The Student News Site of Utica University

The Tangerine

The Student News Site of Utica University

The Tangerine

Utica journalism alum produces PBS Martin Luther King Jr. documentary

A+panel+discusses+the+life+and+legacy+of+Dr.+Martin+Luther+King+Jr.+%2FPhoto+submitted+by+Georgina+Parsons
A panel discusses the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. /Photo submitted by Georgina Parsons

A new PBS documentary on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is connected to Utica University— it was produced by Utica alumna Georgina Parsons, associate commissioner of communications and media for the New York State Office of General Services. 

The one-hour documentary, titled “NY Celebrates Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 2024,” aired on Jan. 15 and paid tribute to King by showcasing people and organizations across New York state who embody the principles of the social justice leader. The documentary also honored Harry Belafonte and Corky Lee, and shared stories of service from everyday New Yorkers, according to Parsons.

“This year, we focused on four pillars: resilience, service, faith/unity and empowerment,” said Parsons, who grew up attending the previous state events held in honor of King and graduated from Utica in 2003 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism.

Parsons said this is an annual celebration where the documentary and panel discussion change every year and explore different ways to honor King. Prior to the COVID pandemic, it was solely an in-person discussion event located in Albany, which contained a panel.

“When it was an in person event, it was hard for people to find a way to get to the capital region of Albany to attend,” Parsons said. “When COVID hit, we actually saw this as an opportunity to get the whole perspective of New York state instead of it mostly being the capital region of Albany.”

According to Parsons, turning the event into a film is what led them to partnering with PBS and showcasing the documentary. In 2025, the Office of General Services will upload a new documentary on its website that is different from this year’s.

“Each year we try to tell different stories and what my aim is right now is to build upon stories we’ve told in the previous year,” Parsons said. “My thought process from this year also came heavily from the idea of how do we tell King’s story through the state of New York.”

Parsons said one of her favorite parts of working on this documentary was going to events such as the Gathering for Justice that was held at the Harry Belafonte Gathering for Justice Center in New York City.

“Being in the same space where he sat and mentored people, as well being able to look at books he owned and seeing that he still had front pages of newspapers from when King was shot, you just felt his presence there,” said Parsons. 

Another one of her favorite memories was hearing stories of how the capital region was connected to the Civil Rights Movement and other events of the past.

“It’s almost like everything is a stepping stone,” Parsons said. “One particular moment is when African Americans actually walked out of a church in Albany after being denied the ability to be on the floor and praying with everyone else and instead subject to being in balcony areas. The people that left started their own church which still stands in Albany to this day.”

Parsons said one of the most important takeaways from this documentary is knowing that King’s contributions to the Civil Rights Movement were not that long ago and the progress New York is making is a tribute to him. According to Parsons, the documentary helps people think about how their own area of the state is progressing and if more education is needed.

Anyone can watch the documentary by visiting https://empirestateplaza.ny.gov/nyking.



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About the Contributor
Charles Buckley, Features Editor
Class Year: Junior Major: Communication and Media Minors: Creative Writing and Theatre Previous Position: Staff Writer (2020-2021), Clerk (2021-2022), Features Editor (Fall 2023)

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