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2019 Schedule of Events

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Vanderbilt University Commemoration
January 18-21, 2019

Our Lives. Our Movements. Our Responsibility.

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter.”
― Martin Luther King Jr.

 Schedule of Events

All MLK events on Monday, January 21, have GME (Greek Member Experience) status.

Friday, January 18th

12:00 p.m.
MLK Kickoff

Featuring: Rev. Dr. Teresa Smallwood, Associate Director of the Racial Justice Collaborative

Bishop Joseph Johnson Black Cultural Center
Come out and enjoy great soul food and fellowship as we officially kick off the MLK Commemoration.

Saturday, January 19th

MLK Trivia Night

6:00 p.m.

Ben Schulman Center for Jewish Life (Hillel Center)


MLK Weekend of Service
OACS invites you to join the Vanderbilt community in a weekend of action and reflection as we honor the contributions of Rev. Dr. King in seeking justice and challenging the discourse on civil (dis)obedience. Students, faculty, and staff are encouraged to join us for projects that address specific community needs through intentional service and action. For more info please link to

Monday, January 21st

10:00 a.m.
Nashville Freedom March
Buses leave from The Ingram Commons at Hank Ingram Circle and Kirkland Circle. Lite Breakfast Refreshments will be provided at both sites.

Buses for the 2019 Freedom March arrive for pick up at 8:00 a.m. at Kirkland Circle (near the intersection of West End Ave. and Louise Ave.) and Hank Ingram in The Ingram Commons. The buses depart campus at 8:30 a.m. and transport students to the Jefferson Street Missionary Baptist Church near the intersection of Jefferson St. and 28th Avenue North. Official photo will be taken ahead of the March/Convocation at 9:45 a.m. The March will start at 10:00 a.m., and will culminate in the Convocation featuring Rev. Dr. William Barber, leader of the Moral Monday Movement. Immediately after the March, buses will be available from 10:30 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. at the TSU’s Gentry Center to transport students back to campus. Sign up for MLK hoodies here:

11:30 a.m. – 4.30 p.m.
Nashville Freedom Ride
Leaving from Branscomb Circle

Nashville Freedom Rider Kwame Lillard will conduct a tour of significant sites in the civil rights movement in Nashville.

11:30-11:45            Students check in at Branscomb
12:00 p.m.             Lunch at Swett’s Restaurant, 2725 Clifton Ave, Nashville, TN 37209
1:00-4 p.m.     Tour by Kwame Lillard and Sandra Brown

This is an RSVP event (priority given to Vanderbilt students). Please email Nadine De La Rosa for more information.


Afternoon Teach-Ins • 1:15 p.m. – 2:30 p.m. & 2:45 – 4 p.m.

Our Movements Track: Sarratt 325/327

Session 1: Black Lives Matter (1.15-2.30 p.m.)

Black Lives Matter. Since 2012, these three words have become part of the American vernacular. Still, their meaning and the movement built on the idea that Black lives do or should matter are contested and widely misunderstood. This teach-in aims to increase the Vanderbilt community’s understanding of the intellectual foundations and goals of the Black Lives Matter Movement. It will introduce the audience to Audre Lorde, Assata Shakur, and other radical thinkers who critiqued overlapping systems of racial, gender, and class oppression and demonstrate how contemporary activists have productively built on their ideas and action. In doing so, the teach-in will focus on the BLM Movement’s democratic goals rather than its misrepresentation in mainstream media.

Ultimately, this teach-in places the BLM Movement within a rich lineage of Black thought and activism that includes Martin Luther King, Jr. Black Lives Matter is not just a movement but also a demand and an aspiration. It affirms King’s enduring observation that “The racism of today is real, but the democratic spirit that has always faced it is also real.”

Leader: Brandon Byrd, PhD


Session 2: LGBT & the Civil Rights: What Would Martin Do? (2.45-4 p.m.)

In both lecture and discussion form, this session will interrogate the lessons that can be learned in the gay rights movement from the methods of Rev. Dr. King from the Civil Rights movement. First, we will confront the ways that public policy related to the rights of gay men and lesbians is almost always filtered through religious values. The session will draw parallels between the ways religious text were used to support policies against miscegenation and the ways religious texts are (still) used to support policies against full marriage equality and other civil rights (e.g., accommodations protections) for gay men and women. Then we will look at Dr. King’s use of religious texts, texts that he recognized could be used as weapons against the oppressed or weapons against those who oppress. King was expert at using the Bible to excoriate those who would, at best, ignore and, at worse, incite the oppression of other Americans. We would wrestle with the question: “which side would he stand on when it comes to the right of gay Americans”? Would he–could he–effectively use the same social movement tactics to change the conversation? This discussion will not require prior or detailed knowledge of religious texts.

Leaders: Richard Pitt, PhD

Our Responsibilities Track: Rand 308

Session 1: Microagressions. The Hate You Face Everyday (1.15-2.30 p.m.)

Microaggressions are common in our everyday lives and interactions with those around us, yet many people remain unaware of their microaggressive behaviors and the impact those behaviors have on others around them. Through this presentation, you will learn about the concept of microaggressions and the various ways in which they are presented, and the effect that engaging in microaggressive behaviors has on the individuals with whom you interact. Additionally, you will be better equipped to recognize and address microaggressions in your communities, and will come to understand how microaggressions impact identity groups that you are cognizant of, as well as those that remain in your periphery. Further, we will unpack the differences between equality and equity, and intent versus impact. You will be encouraged to share from your personal experiences and lean into discomfort, as that is where growth most readily occurs. As part of this program, you will be challenged to see our communities, our society, and our world as they currently are, and to envision versions of these as they ought to be. Microaggressions negatively affect our lives; it is imperative that we take responsible action along the way to creating more inclusive, equitable environments in which everyone is able to thrive and reach their potential. Progress begins here.

Leader: Austin Darling

Session 2: Picture This. Black Girls Speak Truth to Power (2.45-4 p.m.)

Black girls are often thought to be just the consumers of the images projected onto them. However, in an attempt to create a disruption in those kinds of narratives, Black girl spaces (in school and out of school) are encouraged to engage work where the genius of Black girls is showcased and thus, they become known as producers of images and not only consumers. In my work with Black girls, we share life stories with each other, using digital and disposable cameras as tools for interrogating notions of power, voice and representation as articulated within the images and stereotypes of Black girls. As a way to investigate their own lives and disrupt stereotypical images of Black girls in schools and society, Black girls use photography and text in an effort to create collective meaning and counter-narratives.

to the stereotypes about Black girls being invisible, loud and hypersexual. Entrusting the cameras in the hands of Black girls enables them to act as recorders, and potential catalysts for change in their own communities. In other words, the use of photography as a social justice tactic serves as the foundation of a political project within a social justice lens and to have stories be documented and constructed by the very people not just living the stories, but also negotiating the realities of those lived experiences, particularly in marginalized communities.

Leader:  Claudine Taaffe, PhD


Our Lives Track: Commons Center 235

Session 1: Countering Islamophobia Everyday (1.15-2.30 p.m.)

Join us for this in-depth training to unpack Islamophobia, and strategize around meaningful ways for allied communities to resist Islamophobia right now. Through a series of small group work, large group facilitated discussion, and self-reflection we’ll develop an analysis of how Islamophobia affects our communities, through both individual harm and state violence level harm. We’ll focus our efforts on unpacking the dominant myths and narratives around Muslims/Islam and how these messages are coded in the media. Then, we’ll learn how to shift out of those narratives when trying to counter them. Additionally, we’ll explore how Islamophobia manifests as state violence. Programs such as the Department of Homeland Security’s “Countering Violent Extremism” grant program rely on vague characteristics and hidden surveillance to predict the potential for radicalization and subsequent terrorism. These community surveillance programs masquerading as positive counter-terrorism efforts disproportionally target Muslim communities. The tools gained in this training will help you rethink the concept of allyship and strategize around interrupting Islamophobia—and other forms of oppression. You’ll leave the training with action steps and questions for further study.

Leaders: Sabina Mohyuddin, Lindsey Lieck

Session 2: Stop & Frisk. Protect and Serve or License to Violate? (2.45-4 p.m.)

MLK’s Legacy of Equality Remains Unfulfilled in Light of Criminal Laws that Disproportionately Impact African Americans: “A Re-examination of Terry v. Ohio and the Policy of Stop and Frisk” This teach in will examine the way that criminal law is defined, constrained or expanded and how those policies negatively impact the civil rights of African American citizens in The United States. Specifically, this teach in will focus on the pivotal case of Terry v. Ohio, the landmark case which led to “Terry Stops,” or what is now more commonly known as “stop and frisk.” This teach in will explore the intricacies of the individual facts of that case as well as how its holding has been applied and misapplied in subsequent cases. Finally, the many problems that have come about through the usage of stop and frisk, particularly, in New York City, will be explored. For instance, Floyd v. City of New York, decided in August 2013, held that stop and frisk was being used in an unconstitutional manner in New York City, in a way that negatively impacted African Americans. This teach-in topic will also explore what some of these recent developments mean for stop and frisk as a whole, as it still remains valid law today. And there will be discussion of whether this current jurisprudence could possibly one day lead to Terry v Ohio being overturned in entirety. Through the usage of PowerPoint, interactive hypothetical scenarios, and some lecture, the audience will be invited to think about what the existence of stop and frisk means in light of the importance of safeguarding civil rights.

Leader:  Kim Goins, J.D.

MLK Keynote Address
April Ryan
Langford Auditorium

Tickets are free and available through the Sarratt Cinema Box Office beginning January 7th. On January 21, remaining tickets will be available at the lobby of Langford Auditorium at 6:15 pm. Visit link for more ticketing details: 

6:30 p.m.
Candlelight Vigil
Join us for an inspirational interfaith service that bears witness to the shining light that Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King was in our world and to the continuing light of his legacy among us. Vanderbilt University and Divinity School students will lead this service. Thanks to Assistant Dean Rev. Dr. Amy Steele for coordinating the planning of this service.

6:45 p.m.
MLK Middle and High School Essay/Poetry/Spoken Word Contest Winners

7:00 p.m.
MLK Keynote: Mrs. April Ryan

7:50 p.m.
Q and A 

8:05 p.m.
Mrs. Ryan will sign copies of her new book “Under Fire”
Location: Lobby of Langford


In-Conjunction/Community Events

Thursday, January 17th

1:00 p.m.

‘If not us, then who…?’ will take us on a journey through the civil rights movement in Nashville. We’ll take a deep dive into the integral people who planned and pushed for equality for African-Americans along with uncovering significant events that transpired in our community. We invite you to join us as we discover what makes Nashville so important to this movement

Owen Graduate School of Management Room 220

All Vanderbilt Students are Welcome


Friday, January 18th, 2019

IMF MLK Labor Breakfast

Scarritt Bennett Center (1027 18th Avenue South)




Saturday, January 19th, 2019

MLK Lecture

Bishop Joseph Johnson Black Cultural Center

Hosted By: Organization for Black Graduate and Professional Students

Featuring: Rev. Shantell R. Hinton

Assistant Chaplain, Office of Religious Life


Monday, January 21st, 2019

MLK Blood Drive

Hillel Schulman Center for Jewish Life


Save a life this MLK Day by participation in Hillel’s annual MLK Blood Drive. Blood is urgently needed this winter after natural disasters devastated the supplies across the country. Take a moment and make a difference.


Pre-register for the drive HERE:


Choose the time that works best for you! Walk-ins will be accommodated but pre-registrants are preferred.

Additional Events

Monday, January 14, 2019, 4:10-5:10 p.m

Commemorative Disability Public Policy Seminar

Hosted By: Vanderbilt Kennedy Center Martin Luther King, Jr.,

Featuring: Asst. Sec. Lance Robertson

Administrator and Assistant Secretary for Aging, Administration for Community Living, Location: Room 241


Diversity, Inclusion and Equity: Our Collective Responsibility

Monday, January 21, 2019, 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM


Monday, January 28, 2019, 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM

2019 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Lecture

Hosted By: Vanderbilt Law School

Featuring: L. Song Richard

Dean and Chancellor’s Professor of Law of the University of California, Irvine School of Law

Location: Flynn Auditorium


Wednesday, February 13, 2019, 6:30pm

Featuring: Angie Thomas, award-winning author of The Hate You Give

Hosted by: Office for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion

Location: Langford Auditorium


We would like to thank all of our gracious sponsors and everyone participating in this commemoration.

Tickets are free and available through Sarratt Cinema or at Langford Auditorium on the evening of the event on a first come basis.

Questions? Email