Co-founder of Black Lives Matter Patrisse Cullors to speak at Vanderbilt Sept. 20

WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 11:  Honoree Patrisse Cullors speaks at the 2018 ACLU National Conference at the Washington Convention Center on June 11, 2018 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Paul Morigi/Getty Images)

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WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 11: Honoree Patrisse Cullors speaks at the 2018 ACLU National Conference at the Washington Convention Center on June 11, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Paul Morigi/Getty Images)

Maya Sood

This Thursday, Sept. 20, Vanderbilt University will be hosting Patrisse Cullors, Co-founder of Black Lives Matter, as the keynote speaker at the Vanderbilt University Transdisciplinary Symposium.  The symposium, “From MLK to BLM: 50 years of struggle” will delve into the influence of MLK’s legacy in the fight for racial and social justice.

Originally from Los Angeles, CA, Cullors has dedicated most of her life to fighting for prison reform and against anti-black racism worldwide. From a young age, she has worked to improve the safety and conditions of the prison system, through The Coalition to End Sheriff Violence, as well as advocating for the rights of queer women of color.  An artist, organizer and freedom fighter, Cullors has not only used her voice through performance art but also through the various organizations she’s started, including Dignity and Power Now, her non-profit to support the lives of those affected by mass incarceration.

However, she is most well known for her work with Black Lives Matter.  In 2013, Cullors was the first to use the hashtag #blacklivesmatter in reaction to the death of Trayvon Martin. Dignity and Power Now was started by a simple social media campaign has now grown into an international non-profit that has inspired many to follow in her footsteps.   Her work with the movement led her to write a book, When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir and has made her a New York Times bestselling author.  

Members of the Vanderbilt community will have the opportunity to hear her deliver the evening keynote address at 7:30 during Thursday’s symposium in the Langford Auditorium.  Seats are still open and available to the public for registration. Throughout the day, attendees can attend separate panels led by the symposium co-sponsors: The Divinity School, Peabody College, The Graduate School and Vanderbilt Law School.  Each panel will explore a different topic related to MLK’s legacy as it relates to today’s issues. These panels will be held at Flynn Auditorium in the Vanderbilt Law School.

“This symposium represents the spirit of collaboration and the importance that we, as a university, place on open and mutual conversations about the important issues of our day,” said Emilie Townes, Dean of Vanderbilt Divinity School. “The importance of our addressing racial justice as a university and as a nation is as vital today as it has ever been in the life of this country.” Seats for Cullor’s address remain open and can be registered for here.