White House correspondent April Ryan gave the keynote address during Niagara University’s annual celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy on Feb. 1, 2023. Ryan, who has covered the White House for 26 years, discussed the work of Dr. King and those who walked with him as he fought for justice during the Civil Rights Movement.

“Dr. King challenged the comfort of society,” she said. “He gave the greatest dis-ease. He made you face yourself, he made you face society, whether you liked it or not. He made you see yourself and maybe a bias that you didn’t know and he made you look at society as a whole. This man who spoke and walked nonviolently died in one of the most horrific ways, and America saw the marcher who many people despised become the heralded martyr.”

Ryan is a political analyst for CNN and the Washington, D.C., bureau chief for TheGrio. From January 1997 to November 2020, she served in these roles for American Urban Radio Networks. Her unique vantage point as the only black female reporter covering urban issues from the White House has afforded her unusual insight into the racial sensitivities, issues, and attendant political struggles of our nation’s past presidents. 

“If it weren’t for Dr. King, I would not be in this unique perch,” she acknowledged. “If it weren’t for Dr. King, there would not have been a Barack Obama, if it weren’t for Dr. King, there would not be a Kamala Harris.”

Ryan shared her experiences with U.S. Rep. John Lewis and with Dr. King’s daughter, Bernice King, who told her that her father would not be supportive of “cancel culture.”

“The thought was for all of us to be together, to work out your differences,” she recalled her saying. “She also said, in this fight that we have right now, we have to learn how to fight with love, and that’s what her father did.”

“It's about community. It’s about first-class citizenship. It’s about love. It’s about nonviolence. It’s about a dream that’s not deferred, a dream that we still have to fight for,” Ryan concluded.

Members of the local chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., presented Ryan, an honorary member of the organization, with a gift in appreciation of her work at the start of the presentation, and a question and answer period followed Ryan’s address.

Ryan is a member of the National Press Club and one of only three African Americans to have served on the board of the prestigious White House Correspondents Association. Her work has been featured in magazines including Essence, Vogue, Cosmopolitan, and Elle, and she is the author of “The Presidency in Black and White,” “At Mama's Knee: Mothers and Race in Black and White,” and “Under Fire: Reporting from the Front Lines of the Trump White House.”

Ryan was recognized with the 2019 Freedom of the Press Award by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. She was also nominated in 2021 for the NAACP Image Award for Social Justice Impact.

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