Thank you to the following members of the Virginia Tech MLK Celebration committee!

Kimberly Williams, Assistant Director for the Black Cultural Center, Cultural and Community Centers (chair)

Anthony Wright de Hernandez, Resident Librarian and Diversity Outreach Librarian, University Libraries

Brandy Faulkner, Visiting Assistant Professor, Political Science

Catherine Cotrupi, Assistant Director for Student Engagement, VT Engage

Curtis Rowlette, Black Organizations Council (BOC) executive, graduate student

Isaac Barber, Assistant Director for Event Planning, Student Engagement and Campus Life

Jon Catherwood-Ginn, Partnerships and Engagement Manager, Moss Arts Center

Luis H. Garay, Assistant Director for the LGBTQ+ Resource Center, Cultural and Community Centers

Latanya Walker, Director of Alumni Relations for Diversity and Inclusion and Community Engagement, Alumni Relations

Laurie Brogdon, Director of External Relations, Computer Science

Mallory Foutch, Program Coordinator, Women's Center

Michele Deramo, Director of Diversity Education and Initiatives, Office for Inclusion and Diversity

Nisi Smith, Student African American Sistershood (SAAS), undergraduate student


A dedicated activist working at the intersection of racial justice and immigrant rights for more than a decade, Opal Tometi was incensed by the 2013 acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin—and inspired to take action. Starting the Twitter hashtag, #BlackLivesMatter, Tometi (with Alicia Garza and Patrisse Cullors), prompted activism nationwide and introduced the banner under which this generation’s civil rights movement marches.

An established immigration rights advocate and community organizer, Tometi’s passionate interest stems from experience as the child of Nigerian immigrants. Recognized as a rising leader in the movement, she was named a “New Civil Rights Leader” by the Los Angeles Times for her work building movements that bridge immigrant and human rights initiatives to the ever-growing black liberation movement. Tometi and her fellow Black Lives Matter co-founders were honored with inclusion on 2015’s The Root’s Top 100 List for the movement’s social and political impact. In 2016, in recognition of their contributions to human rights, the Black Lives Matter co-founders received BET’s Black Girls Rock Community Change Agent Award, and were recognized among the world’s 50 greatest leaders by Fortune and POLITICO magazines.

As the Executive Director at the Black Alliance for Just Immigration, Tometi is at the helm of the country’s leading black organization for immigrant rights, steering initiatives including the first Congressional briefing on black immigrants. She has also presented at the United Nations and has participated with the UN’s Global Forum on Migration and Commission on the Status of Women.

Tometi reveals raw insights into the adversity inflicted by social injustice, anti-black bias and uninformed views on immigration, educating and inspiring audiences to organize and stand together to transform society into a world where the lives and contributions of all individuals are recognized equally.