Martin Luther King, Jr. Series
photo of MLK, Jr.
Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.

The Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemorative Series was established in 1985 at Vanderbilt University as a celebration of the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Held each January as a part of the observance of Dr. King's birthday, the lectures and events of the Series serve to educate the Vanderbilt and Nashville communities on Dr. King's historic achievements and his enduring influence.

In honoring Dr. King, Vanderbilt University affirms its own commitment to the goals of peace and racial justice to which Dr. King dedicated his life.

Sponsors and Supporters:

Bishop Joseph Johnson Black Cultural Center
Black Student Association
The Commons
MLK Jr. Commemorative Series Committee
Office of the Dean of Students
Office of Religious Life
Peabody College of Education and Human Development
Project Dialogue
School of Engineering
School of Medicine
School of Nursing
Speak Truth to Power
Vanderbilt Kennedy Center
Vanderbilt Organization of Black Graduate and Professional Students
Vanderbilt University Law School

For more information, call the
Office of Religious Life at (615) 322-2457

Parking and Venue Information


The Martin Luther King Jr.
2010 Commemorative
Lecture Series


Monday, January 18 (MLK National Holiday)

What Would Martin Think?
Health Disparity and Health Inequity in America

Wayne Riley, M.D.
Light Hall, Room 208, Noon

Vanderbilt University School of Nursing and School of Medicine, in conjunction with the 2010 Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemorative Series, are proud to present Wayne J. Riley, M.D., MBA, FACP, President and Chief
Executive Officer, Meharry Medical College.

Student Volunteer Community Service to follow Speaker's presentation.
Free and Open to the Public!

The Deliberate Denial of Education
Bob Moses & Rita Bender
Benton Chapel, 6 PM

Keynote Address & Candlelight Vigil

bobBob Moses was a pivotal organizer for the Civil Rights Movement as field secretary for the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), and was director of SNCC's Mississippi Project. He was a driving force behind the Mississippi Summer Project of 1964 in organizing the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP), which challenged the Mississippi regulars at the 1964 Democratic Convention. A MacArthur Foundation Fellow from 1982-87, Dr. Moses used his fellowship to develop the concept for the Algebra Project, wherein mathematics literacy in today's information age is as important to educational access and citizenship for inner city and rural poor middle and high school students as the right to vote was to political access and citizenship for sharecroppers and day laborers in Mississippi in the 1960s. As founder and president of the Algebra Project Inc., Dr. Moses also serves asdirector of the project's materials development program.




Rita Bender is the widow of slain civil rights worker, Michael Schwerner, who was one of three CORE field workers killed in Philadelphia, Mississippi in 1964by an alleged KKK leader in response to their civil-rights work. Ms. Bender was also a member of CORE, serving the Movement in Mississippi at the time of Mr. Schwerner’s murder. Today, she champions equal access to justice issues including advocating for the trial of the perpetrators of crimes of the civil rights era and attempting to assure representation of the poor and under-represented in criminal and civil proceedings. Currently, she is a professor of restorative justice at the University of Mississippi, focusing on the deliberate denial of education.


In memory of MLK and in honor of the many activists who still fight for the ideals and values he represented, a candlelight vigil will follow the keynote address.

WATCH the podcast of this event!


Tuesday, January 19
A Persistent Past:  Reckoning with Race and History in the Age of Obama
Douglas Blackmon
Vanderbilt Law School, Flynn Auditorium, 3:30 PM

Douglas Blackmon is a Pulitzer Prize winning author for his work Slavery by Another Name and the Wall Street Journal’s Bureau Chief in Atlanta. Over the past 20 years, Blackmon has written extensively about the American quandary of race, exploring the integration of schools during his childhood in a Mississippi Delta farm town, lost episodes of the Civil Rights movement, and, repeatedly, the dilemma of how a contemporary society should grapple with a troubled past. Many of his stories in The Wall Street Journal have explored the interplay of wealth, corporate conduct and racial segregation.

This event is presented by Vanderbilt Law School



Wednesday, January 20
Living History Luncheon Series:
Veterans of the Nashville Sit-ins - “The Struggle Continues”
Bishop Joseph Johnson Black Cultural Center, Auditorium, Noon

civil rights photo
Photo by Vic Cooley, Nashville Banner

Beginning in February of 1960 American Baptist Theological Seminary, Fisk University, Meharry Medical College, and Tennessee A&I began confronting segregation in Nashville by politely sitting at "whites-only" lunch counters and restaurants. They were met with violence, brutality, and arrest. Hundreds were jailed, and thousands marched in protests that continued for years. Former students who were foot soldiers of the Movement will reflect on their struggle to change Nashville and America.

Thursday, January 21
The Epidemiology and Treatment of Silent Cerebral Infarcts in Sickle Cell Disease

Michael DeBaun
Vanderbilt Kennedy Center/MRL Bldg Room 241, Noon

Dr. DeBaun is a professor of pediatrics, biostatistics and neurology and directs the Sickle Cell Medical Treatment and Education Center at St. Louis Children's Hospital. He is board-certified in pediatrics and pediatric hematology/oncology. He received an MPH in epidemiology from The Johns Hopkins University School of Hygiene and Public Health.

This event is presented by the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center

Saturday, January 23 (Postponed until April 3)
4th Annual MLK Commemorative Series Youth Essay & Oratorical Contest and Luncheon

Bishop Joseph Johnson Black Cultural Center, Noon
Young people from the Nashville community will recite their winning essays and poems on the life and legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr..  Winning entries were chosen by a Vanderbilt University committee.

Thursday, January 28th, 2010
Speak Truth to Power
Panel Discussion
Benton Chapel, 7pm

 “In a world where there is a common lament that there are no more heroes, too often cynicism and despair are perceived as evidence of the death of moral courage. That perception is wrong. People of great valor and heart, committed to noble purpose, with long records of personal sacrifice, walk among us in every country of the world.” -Kerry Kennedy, daughter of Robert F Kennedy

Kerry Kennedy is an American human rights activist and author of Speak Truth to Power, a book that seeks to promote a more just and peaceful world by galvanizing public support for international human rights through cultural, educational, and web-based programs. Ms. Kennedy will serve as moderator for the panel.

The panelists for this event are living testimony to Dr Martin Luther King, Jr.’s call for action and justice:

Lucas Benitez
is the co-founder and co-director of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers. By educating and organizing fellow migrant farmworkers, he has helped secure the first wage increase for tomato pickers in 20 years, exposed and stopped two slavery rings, and launched a Labor Action Rights program that collected nearly $100,000 in back wages. He organized a successful boycott of the fast-food chain Taco Bell, called off in 2005 when the company agreed to address the wages and working conditions of farmworkers in the Florida tomato industry.



Stephen Bradberry
is the head organizer of Louisiana ACORN, the Association of Community Organizations for ReformNow. ACORN has been active in communities of color for more than 30 years. Bradberry has served in low and moderate-income neighborhoods in Louisiana for more than a decade. His chapter of the nationalcommunity group, ACORN, has more than 10,000 member families and works specifically in the area of Living Wages, Environmental Justice and Voting rights.



Marina Pisklakova
is internationally recognized as one of the leading women’s rights activists in Russia. As founder of the National Center for the Prevention of Violence “ANNA,” she works on creating an effective system of response to domestic violence by educating governmental officials and the public about domestic violence within Russia and in other countries. For the past twelve years, Ms. Pisklakova has been involved in training the staff of newly established Crisis Centers as well as law enforcement and other governmental officials on the topics of domestic violence, human trafficking and women’s rights.



For more information on the Speak Truth to Power mission, click HERE.


For additional information on the MLK series:

History of Series

How to Get Involved

Reaching Us:
Religious Life
(Phone) 615-322-2457
(Fax) 615-343-8355
(E-mail) Office of Religious Life

Vanderbilt University Home


Background art from Kente cloth design, courtesy of Kwadwo Boahene.
Copyright 2010, Religious Life, Vanderbilt University. Last Modified: January 2010. This document validates as HTML 4.0 Transitional.