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Event details for the 2019 Martin Luther King Jr. celebration week will be updated here as they become available.

January 22 - February 17

Heartworks: 2019 Martin Luther King Jr. Annual School-Aged Children & Teen Art Exhibit

  • I have decided to stick with LOVE. Hate is too great a burden to bear.” -Martin Luther King Jr., excerpt from his speech “Where do we go from here?”
  • Representing the work of regional kindergarten through twelfth grade students, Heartworks are visual representations of how participants chose to “stick with love.” At the center of the gallery is a sound booth, a collaboration between Newman Library and the Black Cultural Center. Patrons visiting this exhibit may record their stories about love which will be included in Perspective Gallery’s spring Black Love exhibit.
  • Reception: Friday, January 25, 5 - 7 p.m.
  • Free and open to the public

Perspective Gallery @ Squires Student Center

January 22

More than a Soundbite…

  • In the years between his fateful death and today, King’s evolution as social critic has been diminished by the rapid fire and distorting images of television and other media — images that reappear each year during the observation of King’s birthday and of Black History Month. Today, much of King’s message to America has been reduced to 30-second television images and 15-second sound bites that fail to tell the whole story of his moral and intellectual development. This talk will explore the speeches, letter, books, albums and the legacy Dr. King left and how it has been limited in scope and depth. We ask that you bring your favorite MLK quote for the discussion.
  • Presenters: Yolanda Avent and Dr. Ellington Graves
  • Lunch will be provided.

12-1:30 p.m. @ The Black Cultural Center

January 24

MLK Oration Competition

RSVP for MLK Oration Competition

7 p.m. @ The Cube in the Moss Arts Center

January 25

Seminar: Harnessing virus biodiversity to develop new therapies against multi-drug resistant bacteria

  • Dr. Paul Turner - Elihu Professor, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Yale University

12:20 p.m. @ Biocomplexity Institute Auditorium

The Civil Rights Movement as an expression of African American Mindfulness

4-6:30 p.m. @ The Black Cultural Center, Squires Student Center

Music Event - Hubby Jenkins of the Carolina Chocolate Drops

  • This will be a free ticketed event. (Space will be limited.)
  • Tickets will be available for reservation beginning January 22 at or by calling 540-231-5300.

8 p.m. @ The Cube in the Moss Arts Center

January 26

DIALOGUE ON RACE - Annual Summit

  • The Dialogue on Race's mission is to create a forum that examines racial issues articulated by the African-American community in Montgomery County, VA, and then develops and implements solutions. At this summit, hear a public dialogue between local leaders Penny Franklin and Dr. Menah Pratt-Clarke, learn about the work of area non-profits, and engage in dialogue with members of the community.

9 a.m.-1 p.m. @ Christiansburg Middle School

January 31

MLK Keynote

  • Jemele Hill - Emmy Award Winning Journalist, Senior Correspondent & Columnist for The Undefeated
  • Dr. Tommie C. Smith - 200m Gold Medallist, Games of the XIX Olympiad, Mexico City 1968

7 p.m. @ The Anne and Ellen Fife Theatre

Service Trips

Dr. Martin Luther King was an ardent advocate for ending institutionalized racism and poverty. He also believed that, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is “what are you doing for others?”. Join VT Engage and Cultural and Community Centers for a Get on the Bus Service trip to better understand how food insecurity and poverty are effecting Southwest Virginia by working with our local partners, Feeding America, the Giving Tree Food Pantry, and Pulaski Grow.

Penny Franklin

Penny Franklin is a lift truck operator in Shipping Utility at Hubbell Lighting, and she serves on and is former chair of the Montgomery County Board of Education; member of the Virginia School Board Association Board of Directors; president of Local 82160 of the IUE/CWA; former board chair, now Area Chair of the Montgomery Count-Radford City-Floyd County NAACP; and member of the national Executive Council of the IUE.  She is co-founder of the Community Group, an African American civil society organization in Montgomery County; founding member of the New Mountain Climbers, the first giving circle in southwest Virginia, the first African American philanthropy in southwest Virginia.

Jemele Hill

Emmy Award winning journalist, Jemele Hill is the Co-founder of Lodge Freeway Media and a staff writer for The Atlantic.

Hill joined The Undefeated in January 2018 and writes, conducts newsmaker interviews, offers commentary, and creates a variety of content for The Undefeated’s digital, television, and audio platforms. She also hosts events and other important initiatives, including The Undefeated town halls and television specials.

Hill regularly appears on various ESPN platforms and programs to offer her perspective and commentary. 

Prior to joining The Undefeated, Hill co-anchored SportsCenter for a year with her longtime friend and colleague Michael Smith. SC6 with Michael & Jemele debuted in February 2017 as a more personality driven approach to the traditional 6 p.m. SportsCenter. Focusing on sports, music, movies, and more, SC6 was born from Hill and Smith’s popular His & Hers podcast and weekday television show, which debuted on ESPN2 in 2014.

In August 2018, the National Association of Black Journalists awarded Hill with Journalist of the Year Award. In July 2016, Hill participated in The President and the People: A National Conversation – a one-hour town hall with President Barack Obama on race relations, justice, policing, and equality.

Before joining ESPN, Hill was a sports columnist for the Orlando Sentinel from 2005-2006 – the lone African-American female sports columnist in the country. 

A native of Detroit, Hill is a Michigan State alumna.

hubby jenkins

Hubby Jenkins is a talented multi-instrumentalist who endeavors to share his love and knowledge of old-time American music. Born and raised in Brooklyn he delved into his Southern roots, following the thread of African American history that wove itself through country blues, ragtime, fiddle and banjo, and traditional jazz. Hubby got his higher musical education started as a busker. He developed his guitar and vocal craft on the sidewalks and subway platforms of New York City, performing material by those venerable artists whose work he was quickly absorbing. An ambitiously itinerant musician, he took his show on the road, playing the streets, coffee shops, bars, and house parties of cities around the U.S.

After years of busking around the country and making a name for himself, Hubby became acquainted with the Carolina Chocolate Drops. Beginning in 2010 he was an integral part of the Grammy award winning Carolina Chocolate Drops. He himself is a Grammy award and Americana music award nominee.

Menah Pratt-Clarke

Dr. Menah Pratt-Clarke joined Virginia Tech on Feb. 1, 2016 as vice president for strategic affairs and vice provost for inclusion and diversity. She also holds a faculty appointment as a professor in the School of Education in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences.  She is affiliated with Africana Studies, Women’s and Gender Studies, and the Department of Sociology.

Pratt-Clarke brings more than 20 years of administrative, academic, and legal experience to Virginia Tech. Prior to coming to Virginia Tech, she served as the Associate Chancellor for Strategic Affairs and Associate Provost for Diversity, advising the chancellor and provost on issues of diversity, governance, and strategic affairs at the University of Illinois since 2006, and was also an associate professor in the Department of Education Policy, Organization, and Leadership, and was affiliated with the university’s Institute for Government and Public Affairs, the Department of African-American Studies, the Department of Gender and Women’s Studies, the Center for African Studies, and the College of Law.  She also worked at Vanderbilt University for eight years as University Compliance Officer, Assistant Secretary of the University, and University Counsel.

Her teaching and research interests include critical race studies, black feminism, and critical race feminism, with a particular focus on issues of transdisciplinary analysis of diversity issues in higher education.  In addition to publishing several articles and book chapters, Pratt-Clarke’s book, Critical Race, Feminism, and Education: A Social Justice Model, was published in 2010. Additional literary projects include a book on the journey of women of color presidents in the academy, the role of chief diversity officers in higher education, and the journey of sharecroppers to the academy.

She is a member of the National Gender and Women’s Studies Association, American Sociological Association, Association for the Study of African-American Life and History, American Association for Affirmative Action, and the National Council of Diversity Officers in Higher Education.

Pratt-Clarke received her bachelor’s degree and master’s degree from the University of Iowa, and a master’s degree, law degree, and Ph.D. from Vanderbilt University.  She taught at Vanderbilt University, Fisk University, and American Baptist College.

Dr Tommie C Smith

Tommie Smith began life quietly. Born to Richard and Dora Smith on June 6, 1944 in Clarksville, Texas, he is the seventh of 12 children. Tommie Smith survived a life-threatening bout of pneumonia as an infant which allowed him to carry out the work that God intended for him. Today, his historic achievements make him a nationally and internationally distinguished figure in African American history. He is the only man in the history of track and field to hold eleven world records simultaneously.

Tommie Smith received his Bachelor of Arts degree from San Jose State University in social science with double minors in military science and physical education. As a college student, Tommie amazingly tied or broke a total of 13 world records in track. However, realizing the importance of education, Tommie went on to obtain a master’s degree in sociology from Goddard College in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Tommie was awarded an honorary doctorate degree (LHD) from his alma mater, San Jose State University in May 2005.

During the historical 19th Olympiad in Mexico City in the summer of 1968, Tommie Smith broke the world and Olympic record with a time of 19.83 seconds and became the 200-meter Olympic champion. As the “Star Spangled Banner” played in the wind at the Mexico City Summer Olympic Games, Tommie Smith and John Carlos stood on the victory podium, draped with their Olympic medals, each raising a clinched fist covered in a black leather glove in a historic stand for black power, liberation, and solidarity. This courageous, unexpected worldwide event propelled Tommie Smith into the spotlight as a human rights spokesman, activist, and symbol of African American pride at home and abroad. Cheered by some, jeered by others, and ignored by many more, Tommie Smith made a commitment to dedicate his life, even at great personal risk to champion the cause of oppressed people. The story of the “silent gesture” is captured for all time in the 1999 HBO TV documentary: "Fists of Freedom".

Tommie Smith’s courageous leadership, talent, and activism have earned him well-deserved acclaim and awards. Some highlights include: featured in Sports Illustrated, Ebony, Time, and Newsweek; played for the Cincinnati Bengals from 1969-1971; became a member of the National Track and Field Hall of Fame in 1978; coaching staff of the 1995 World Indoor Championship team in Barcelona, Spain; inducted into the California Black Sports Hall of Fame in 1996; received Sportsman of the Millennium Award in 1999; inducted into the Bay Area Hall of Fame in May 1999; inducted into the San Jose State University Sports Hall of Fame in November 1999; presented with Commendation, Recognition and Proclamation Awards by the County of Los Angeles and the State of Texas in 2000 and 2001; honoured by the French Government in 2004 with the naming of a Gymnasium and in 2007 with the naming of a Youth Sports House in Paris.

Since the games of the 19th Olympiad, Tommie has enjoyed a distinguished career as a coach, educator, and activist. Tommie served as a faculty member at Santa Monica College in Santa Monica, California for 27 years, teaching, coaching and serving on academic committees. Tommie has dedicated a total of 37 years to educating and teaching our children. In June 2005, he retired and move to Georgia. He continues to travel nationwide giving of himself to all.

The Tommie Smith Youth Track Athletics is in its 16th year in Oakland, California and the 9th year in Washington DC. Dr. Smith continues the struggle by helping bring awareness to our youth about health and wellness. London and Paris have also joined the Tommie Smith Youth Initiative. Dr. Smith completed his autobiography titled “Silent Gesture” published by Temple University Press in January 2007, which was nominated for an NAACP Image Award in the literary category Autobiography and Biography. He also received the Peace Abby Courage of Conscience Award in April 2008, the ESPYS Arthur Ashe Courage Award in July 2008, and the Trumpet Awards in 2007. Tommie was inducted into the California Sports Hall Of Fame on April 1, 2012 and the Smithsonian African American Museum in 2016. He received the International Peace Prize in Dresden, Germany in 2018.

dr. paul turner

Elihu Professor
Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology
Yale University

Dr. Paul Turner received his B.S. from the University of Rochester in Biology, his Ph.D. from Michigan State University, followed by postdoctoral appointments at the NIH, University of Valencia, and University of Maryland. He was recently named the first Elihu Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology in honor of the school’s namesake, Elihu Yale. Dr. Turner is the director of the Graduate Program in Microbiology for Yale University School of Medicine. He has also contributed to diversity initiatives at Yale and in professional organizations.


Seminar: Harnessing virus biodiversity to develop new therapies against multi-drug resistant bacteria

Abstract: Increasing prevalence and severity of multi-drug-resistant (MDR) bacterial infections has necessitated novel antibacterial strategies. Ideally, new approaches would target bacterial pathogens while exerting selection for reduced pathogenesis when these bacteria inevitably evolve resistance to therapeutic intervention. Our approach is to harness the vast biodiversity of viruses in the wild, to discover bacteriophages (bacteria-specific viruses) that naturally cause such evolutionary trade-offs.

MLK Committee

  • Chair: Kimberly Williams, Director, Black Cultural Center
  • Luis Garay, Director, LGBTQ+ Center
  • Brandy Faulkner, Visiting Assistant Professor, Political Science
  • Craig Arthur, Teaching and Learning Engagement Librarian, University Libraries
  • Jon Catherwood-Ginn, Associate Director of Programming, Moss Arts Center
  • Edmée Rodriguez-Hasler, Marketing Coordinator, Hokie Wellness
  • Alicia Cohen, Associate Director, Diversity Education and Training, Office for Inclusion and Diversity
  • Brandi Quesenberry, Advanced Instructor, Communications and Director of CommLab
  • Shernita Lee, Director, Office of Recruitment, Diversity, and Inclusion - Graduate School & President, Black Faculty/Staff Caucus
  • Tiffany Woodall, Writer/Editor, Student Affairs Communications

Sponsored by:

Office for Inclusion and Diversity, Student Affairs, Athletics Department, Human Resources, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Pamplin College of Business, Operations, College of Architecture and Urban Studies, College of Natural Resources and Environment, College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences, College of Science, University Libraries, VTC School of Medicine, College of Engineering, Moss Arts Center, Department of Religion and Culture