Vandy MLK Commemorative Series features Janelle Monae and Yusef Salaam

Janelle Monae (photo by Myles Kalus Anak Jihem wikimedia)

The 2020 Vanderbilt University MLK Commemorative Series runs Friday, Jan. 17 through Monday, Jan. 20, with the theme, “The Power Of Storytelling: Our Stories Connect Us.” The Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemorative Series was established in 1985 at Vanderbilt University. Commemorating King’s life and legacy, the university community gathers annually on this national holiday for a series of programs including: participation in the city-wide march, community service, educational forums and lectures. In honoring King, Vanderbilt University affirms its own commitment to the goals of peace and racial justice to which King dedicated his life.

Janelle Monáe, a Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter, performer, producer and actor, and Yusef Salaam, one of the Exonerated Five, formally known as the Central Park Five, will speak at Vanderbilt University on Jan. 19 as the featured panelists for the 2020 MLK Commemorative Series keynote event in Langford Auditorium. Monáe and Salaam will sit down for a conversation moderated by the Divinity School Dean Emilie M. Townes, the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Professor of Womanist Ethics and Society.

The keynote event, hosted in partnership with the Chancellor’s Lecture Series, begins at 5:30 p.m. It will include a vigil, a presentation from middle school and high school student winners of the MLK Day Writing Contest with Metro Nashville Public Schools, and the keynote panel with Monáe, Salaam and Townes.

The event is free to attend; for event planning purposes, those who would like to attend are asked to confirm their interest on the VU MLK website: https://www.vanderbilt.edu/mlk/  Filling out the interest form does not guarantee admission; all seating at the event, including overflow spaces, is on a first-come basis.

Friday, January 17, the MLK Commemorative Series Kickoff features will feature local artist James Threalkill, a Vandy BS’79 alumnus, at the Bishop Joseph Johnson Black Cultural Center from Noon to 1:30 p.m.; come out and enjoy great soul food and fellowship at the official kick off the MLK Commemoration.

The MLK Joint Day of Service on Jan. 18 will commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Nashville student sit-in movement. Join more than 400 students across the city of Nashville in a day of action and reflection as we honor the contributions of Martin Luther King, Jr. in seeking justice and challenging the discourse on civil (dis)obedience. This year’s day of service will specifically honor the 60th anniversary of the Nashville student sit-in movement and feature Freedom Rider and Sit-in leader Rip Patton.

MLK Day events on Jan. 20 will include interactive teach-in sessions focused on inclusion, equity and activism through storytelling, the Nashville MLK Day March and Convocation, the MLK Day Blood Drive at the Ben Schulman Center for Jewish Life, and more.

The VU Law School will host its annual MLK Memorial Lecture featuring Jamal Green, Dwight Professor of Law at Columbia Law School. The lecture is free and open to the public, and will be held on Friday, Jan. 24 at noon in Flynn Auditorium.