MLK Lecture Feb. 3 features Black Lives Matter co-founders

Black Lives Matter leaders
Black Lives Matter movement co-founders Patrisse Cullors, from left, Alicia Garza and Opal Tometi. The 2016 Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Lecture, Feb. 3 in Sage Chapel, will feature a panel discussion with Garza and Tometi, along with BLM Toronto co-founder Janaya Khan.

Co-founders of the Black Lives Matter movement will speak Wednesday, Feb. 3, from 4:45 to 6:15 p.m. in Sage Chapel at the 2016 Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Lecture at Cornell. The event is free and open to the public.

A panel discussion will feature Alicia Garza and Opal Tometi, two of the community organizers credited with beginning the online campaign that became a global human rights movement, and Janaya Khan, co-founder of Black Lives Matter Toronto and international ambassador for the #BLM Network. The panel will be introduced by Cornell President Elizabeth Garrett and moderated by Sean Eversley Bradwell, Ph.D. ’09, assistant professor at Ithaca College’s Center for the Study of Culture, Race and Ethnicity; and followed by a question-and-answer session.

Black Lives Matter began in 2013 following the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the fatal shooting of black teenager Trayvon Martin in Florida. The movement first consolidated around the use of the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter on social media in response to the Zimmerman case and ongoing incidents of bias and racial violence.

“I think that what they have helped set in motion is the emergence of a different style of leadership and activism – a more decentralized model of leadership involving local activists seeking to address the difficult and fraught interactions between people of color – particularly African-Americans – and law enforcement,” said Rev. Dr. Kenneth I. Clarke, director of Cornell United Religious Work (CURW) and chair of the King Commemoration Committee.

“In much of the Black Lives Matter activism I’ve observed across the country, they are combining substantive social analysis with concrete social action, and they are insisting on change,” Clarke said. “I think that that is in keeping with what we are seeing on college campuses across the country, from Missouri to Yale to Ithaca College. It also impacts and implicates student activists here at Cornell who have been engaging the administration on a number of issues, including creating a more inclusive campus climate. All this is of a piece … bringing that type of energy and this combination of thoughtful, reflective, insistent activism.”

The event will feature opening remarks from Clarke and Ryan Lombardi, vice president for student and campus life, and performances by the Community Unity Music Education Program dancers and the Baraka Kwa Wimbo gospel ensemble.

The annual Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Lecture provides a public, campus-based forum making the life and legacy of King accessible for contemporary times.

The event is sponsored by CURW, the Africana Studies and Research Center, and Student and Campus Life, with community co-sponsors including the Greater Ithaca Activities Center, Southside Community Center and the Ithaca College Office of Student Engagement and Multicultural Affairs.

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Melissa Osgood