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2013 MLK Commemoration Keynote Speakers/Artists

In keeping with the theme of the 2013 MLK Commemoration The Presence of Justice:  Bursting the Silent Bubbles, Michelle Alexander will take her lecture from her recently released book The New Jim Crow:  Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. This book rips the scab off of our criminal justice system, exposing a pattern of inequity and injustice particularly among people of color.  She will speak on Monday, January 21, 2013 in Langford Auditorium at 7PM.  Opening performances and readings will begin at 6:30 p.m.  A reception and book signing will follow the keynote address.

Michelle Alexander

Michelle Alexander

2013 MLK Commemoration Keynote Speaker

Michelle Alexander is a highly acclaimed civil rights lawyer, advocate, and legal scholar.  In recent years, she has taught at a number of universities, including Stanford Law School, where she was an associate professor of law and directed the Civil Rights Clinics.  In 2005, she won a Soros Justice Fellowship, which supported the writing of The New Jim Crow, and that same year she accepted a joint appointment at the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity and the Moritz College of Law at The Ohio State University.  Since the publication of The New Jim Crow, the book has received rave reviews and has been featured in national radio and television media outlets, including MSNBC, NPR, The Bill Moyers Journal, the Tavis Smiley Show, C-Span, and Washington Journal, among others.  In March, the book won the 2011 NAACP Image Award for best nonfiction.

Prior to entering academia, Alexander served as the Director of the Racial Justice Project for the ACLU of Northern California, where she coordinated the Project’s media advocacy, grassroots organizing, coalition-building, and litigation.  The Project’s priority areas were educational equity and criminal justice reform, and it was during those years at the ACLU that she began to awaken to the reality that our nation’s criminal justice system functions more like a caste system than a system of crime prevention or control.  She became passionate about exposing and challenging racial bias in the criminal justice system, ultimately launching and leading a major campaign against racial profiling by law enforcement, known as the “DWB Campaign” or “Driving While Black or Brown Campaign.”

In addition to her non-profit advocacy experience, Alexander has worked as a litigator at private law firms, including Saperstein, Goldstein, Demchak & Baller, in Oakland, California, where she specialized in plaintiff-side class action lawsuits alleging race and gender discrimination.

Alexander is a graduate of Stanford Law School and Vanderbilt University. Following law school, she clerked for Justice Harry A. Blackmun on the United States Supreme Court and for Chief Judge Abner Mikva on the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.   She currently devotes much of her time to freelance writing, public speaking, consulting with advocacy organizations committed to ending mass incarceration, and, most importantly, raising her three young children—the most challenging and rewarding job of all.


Dr. William Darity

2013 Vanderbilt School of Law MLK Commemoration Speaker

William A. (“Sandy”) Darity Jr. is Arts & Sciences Professor of Public Policy Studies and Economics , Chair of African and African American Studies and director of the Research Network on Racial and Ethnic Inequality at Duke University. He earned the Ph.D. in economics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1978.

Previously he served as director of the Institute of African American Research, director of the Moore Undergraduate Research Apprenticeship Program, director of the Undergraduate Honors Program in economics, and director of Graduate Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Dr. William Darity

Darity’s research focuses on stratification economics, inequality by race, class and ethnicity, schooling and the racial achievement gap, North-South theories of trade and development, skin shade and labor market outcomes, the economics of reparations, the Atlantic slave trade and the Industrial Revolution, doctrinal history and the social psychological effects of unemployment exposure.

Darity was the 2012 a recipient of the Samuel Z. Westerfield Award, the highest honor bestowed by the National Economic Association. He also has been a fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in Behavioral Sciences at Stanford (2011-2012), a fellow at the National Humanities Center (1989-90) and a visiting scholar at the Federal Reserve’s Board of Governors (1984). He is a past president of the National Economic Association and the Southern Economic Association.  Darity also has taught at Grinnell College, the University of Maryland at College Park, the University of Texas at Austin, Simmons College and Claremont-McKenna College. He was Editor in Chief of the most recent edition of the International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences (Macmillan Reference, 2008). Darity has published or edited 10 books and more than 220 articles in professional journals.

Darity lives with his family in Durham, N.C. where he occasionally plays harmonica in a local blues band, occasionally coaches youth sport, and enjoys reading science fiction and speculative fiction.

Dr. Kenneth Robinson

2013 Vanderbilt School of Medicine and School of Nursing MLK Commemoration Speaker

A native of Nashville, TN, The Reverend Kenneth S. Robinson, M.D. holds a Bachelor of Arts, cum laude, from Harvard University (1975); the Doctor of Medicine degree from Harvard Medical School (1979); and a Master of Divinity from Vanderbilt Divinity School (1986), where his Honors Thesis focused on the interrelationship between religious faith and healing.  The

Dr. Kenneth Robinson

delivery of health care has been integral to Dr. Robinson’s “ministry of healing”. Board-certified in Internal Medicine, while having begun his ministry during medical school, Dr. Robinson has pursued a professional synthesis of medicine and ministry; focused on the promotion of health in individuals, families and communities – on holistically “healing the land.”

He recently made history, completing his four-year tenure as the first African-American Commissioner of the Department of Health for the State of Tennessee. An indefatigable champion of holistic and comprehensive approaches to public health and individual well-being, Dr. Robinson was appointed by the Governor to serve in his Cabinet as the State’s Chief Health Officer.  In that capacity, he was responsible for the promotion, protection and improvement of the health of all Tennesseans through the Department’s 3300 employees and budget of $548 Million; its licensure and regulation of health care professionals and health care institutions in the State, inspections and assurances of food and water safety, accumulation of vital health statistics and health outcome data, health policy planning and development, environmental and laboratory testing, bioterrorism preparedness, and a vast array of prevention, education, outreach, maternal and child health, alcohol and drug abuse, community health, immunization, family planning, communicable disease, and safety net primary care services delivered all across the State.  Commissioner Robinson uniquely created a culture of consciousness for improving the state’s historically poor health status, emphasizing personal behavior change, community and faith-based partnerships, interagency collaborations, and the need to engage in data-driven redirection of State resources.  He focused on the epidemic of obesity, the burden of cardiovascular disease and diabetes, the pervasiveness and impact of infant mortality and adolescent pregnancy, and the overarching racial and ethnic disparities that magnify these issues for minorities.

Most recently, Dr. Robinson accepted the appointment of the Shelby County Mayor to be the Mayor’s Public Health Policy Advisor.  In his current position, he provides executive and administrative leadership to strategize approaches, develop policies and plans, and increase community-wide engagement and partnership with governmental Public Health assets, with the goal of improving the health of the public in Memphis and Shelby County.  Dr. Robinson currently chairs Healthy Shelby, an ambitious, multi-sector, public-private, regional Triple Aim initiative in Memphis/Shelby County, TN.  Since 1991, he has also served as Pastor and Chief Executive of the progressive St. Andrew AME Church in Memphis.  His theme, “Ministering to Memphis – Spirit, Soul, and Body,” has inspired program development in social service outreach, childcare and Pre-K education, after-school enrichment and economic development.  The growing, seven-day-a-week church offers a diversity of preventive health services, aerobics, athletics, creative arts, affinity fellowships and youth programs. Addressing the health of its urban community, the church annually donates new shoes to children returning to school – 1325 pairs this year, provides 35,000 meals a year through its food bank site, and has established a 2500-book children’s library and a farmer’s market site for South Memphis, previously a desert for both books and fresh fruits and vegetables.

To expand St. Andrew’s ministry, Dr. Robinson founded and is the CEO of The Works, Inc., its associated, faith-based CDC.  The Works has brought true “renaissance” to the church’s neighborhood, through the construction of 33 affordable single family houses and an 80-unit apartment community. A certified provider of homebuyer counseling services, The Works launched the state’s only licensed non-profit mortgage brokerage, leading to the creation of a partnership with a major bank, successfully offsetting the prevalence of predatory lenders in South Memphis. The Works sponsors The Circles of Success Learning Academy – a nationally accredited K-5 public charter elementary school, founded by Dr. Robinson to innovatively educate children deemed to be at risk of failure in mainstream, traditional classroom settings.  Under his leadership, St. Andrew has grown to a membership of 1700; forming the core of  The St. Andrew Enterprise, which now has over 80 full- and part-time employees and a $6.5 Million combined annual operating budget, and has been responsible for $21 Million in total investment in housing and community development in South Memphis.

He is now catalyzing a major, multi-partner, public-private collaboration and community participatory process; continuing to build a sustainable healthy community in South Memphis.  Dr. Robinson is a Diplomate of the American Board of Internal Medicine, formerly practicing and teaching General Internal Medicine as a faculty member for a decade at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.  For 12 years prior to joining the Governor’s Cabinet, he served exclusively as an academic physician, as the Assistant Dean for Admissions and Student Affairs in the College of Medicine, at the University of Tennessee, Memphis.  During his tenure there, he provided leadership to the medical school’s commitment to increasing the number of African-American physicians trained in Tennessee, facilitating the graduation of over 230 African-American physicians.  The matriculation rate for underrepresented minority students more than quadrupled; elevating the University of Tennessee College of Medicine to the pinnacle of success in such endeavors among its peer, non-historically black medical schools, and providing for the diversity and cultural competence requisite for the nation’s future health professionals.  With his unique bi-professional background, Dr. Robinson has served as a citizen advisor on minority health issues to federal and state governmental entities.

Given his experience in developing and implementing prototypical, community church-based, prevention programs – building upon public/private partnerships and support – he is widely sought across the country for his expertise on policy and partnership development; particularly applicable to health promotion and disease prevention in the African-American and religious communities.  Dr. Robinson has been granted more than $17 Million in external resources for his congregations from national and local foundations, and local, state, and federal agencies.  He has received numerous national honors, including a $100,000 award for St. Andrew when The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation named him one of the country’s Ten Community Health Leaders of the year; the prestigious Community Builder Award – presented annually to one individual in the nation by the national United Way of America; and an Honorary Doctorate from Meharry Medical College – where both he and his medical aspirations were born.  He was recently inducted into the Nashville Public Education Foundation’s Hall of Fame.

He is an alumnus of Leadership Nashville, Leadership Memphis, a Fellow of The Leadership Academy, and serves as a Director or Trustee of The Memphis Bioworks Foundation, The Community Foundation of Memphis, The Soulsville Foundation, The Briggs Foundation, the Church Health Center, Memphis Regional Design Center, the Leadership Academy, Community L.I.F.T., GTx, Inc., The Tennessee Institute for Public Health, and historic LeMoyne-Owen College.  He is active alumnus of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officers (ASTHO), and was recently appointed to the federal Office of Minority Health’s Regional Health Equity Council (Region IV) of the National Partnership for Action to End Health Disparities.Dr. Lucille Zeph

Rev. Joe Ingle

2013 Vanderbilt MLK Commemoration Lunchtime Symposium Speaker

Rev. Joe Ingle has spent his career advocating for prisoners on death row.  Rather than take a United Church of Christ congregation, Ingle chose to become a self-supporting prison chaplain. He volunteers in Riverbend Maximum Security Prison in Nashville. From 1974 until 1983, he was the executive director of the Southern Coalition on Jails and Prisons, a multi-state organization that sought to abolish the death penalty.  Abolishing the penalty makes sense not only to avoid executing people for crimes they didn’t commit, but also in simple dollars and cents.

Rev. Joe Ingle

“Nationally, there is a move away from capital punishment,” Ingle said, “but you don’t see that in the South. Since 1977, more than 93 percent of the executions in the U.S. have been in the South.”  And patterns for those executions follow disturbingly familiar paths of racial discrimination.

“If you kill a white person, you are 11 times more likely to die for that crime than if you kill a black person,” Ingle said. “And it’s even worse if you’re a black person and you kill a white person. Then you are 22 times more likely to die.”  Ingle said that the current mood in the U.S. of distrusting government should extend to this issue.

“Think about it,” Ingle said. “We don’t trust the state with our taxes, and we’re going to trust the state to say who lives or dies?”

Dr. Lucille Zeph

2013 Vanderbilt Kennedy Center MLK Commemoration Speaker

Dr. Lucille Zeph

Dr. Lucille Zeph joined the faculty of College of Education and Human Development at the University of Maine in 1979 where she established and coordinated graduate education in the area of severe disabilities until 1992. She received her BS in Education from Boston State College, her Masters in Deaf/Blind and Multiple Disabilities from Boston College and her doctorate in Educational Leadership from Peabody College, Vanderbilt University.

For the past 20 years, Lu has served as the founding Director of the Center for Community Inclusion and Disability Studies, Maine’s University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (UCEDD) an interdisciplinary research unit of the University of Maine. For the past two years she has also served as Associate Provost and Dean of the Division of Lifelong Learning at UMaine. Lu is an internationally recognized expert in the field of developmental disabilities. She has served as Principal Investigator on numerous federal and state grants and contracts. Lu has published in the area of inclusive education and inclusive communities and has presented numerous papers at national and international conferences.

She received the University of Maine President’s Award for Public Service and lifetime achievement awards from the Association of University Centers on Disability and TASH New England, and has been recognized for her state and national leadership in the area of disability policy by the Maine Legislature. As a Kennedy Public Policy Fellow, Lu served as an advisor to the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions and later served as Executive Director of the Joseph P. Kennedy Foundation while on leave from the University of Maine. She has been appointed to several federal and state committees, panels, and study groups on disability policy and has served in leadership positions for several national, regional and state disability organizations. Lu’s current research interests are in the areas of universal design including literacy access for students with significant intellectual disabilities and the application of the principles of universal design to public policy and higher education.

Ndume Olatushani

2013 MLK/BCC  Commemoration Featured Artist

Ndume Olatushani is a self-taught artist who discovered his passion for painting while on death

Ndume Olatushani

row.  Wrongly convicted of murder in Memphis in 1985, Ndume spent 20 years on death row, and another 8 years in prison, before he was freed.   A court finally overturned his conviction in 2011 in the face of overwhelming proof that the prosecutors in his case had buried a mountain of evidence demonstrating Ndume’s innocence.  The bulk of the buried evidence showed that an entirely different group of suspects were the real perpetrators of the crime. On June 1, 2012, he walked out of the Memphis jail a free man.

While in solitary confinement on death row, Ndume picked up a pencil and began sketching portraits. Over time, he began experimenting with paint.  Rather than try to capture the tragic images of prison life, Ndume let his mind wander outside of his 6 by 10 foot death cell.  He fleetingly escaped the monochrome, concrete of his world by filling his canvases with the color and beauty of Africa.

All of the paintings in this exhibit were created during Ndume’s long years behind bars.  Though painting was a critical escape during those years, it did not come easily. He was dependent on support from the outside to send him art supplies. And, in his cell, he didn’t have an easel or adequate lighting to facilitate his craft. Typically, he sat on his steel bunk and set the canvas board on his lap.  Because of the dim light, he sometimes needed to use a magnifying glass when working on detailed portions of his work.

Since his release from prison in June of 2012, Ndume has been busy spending time with family and just relishing all of the ordinary things that most of us take for granted. He refuses to be consumed by bitterness for what happened to him.  Having faced the very real prospect of death at the hands of the state, he deeply appreciates the amazing gift of each day he is alive and free.

Ndume feels strongly about not forgetting all the men he left behind in prison. He is deeply committed to working for criminal justice reform. He recently began working as an organizer with the Children’s Defense Fund to help challenge polices resulting in the mass incarceration of people of color.