MLK Day Keynote Speakers
MLK Day 2023
Dr. Angela Davis
Angela Davis is the author of ten books and has lectured throughout the United States as well as in Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia, and South America. In recent years a persistent theme of her work has been the range of social problems associated with incarceration and the generalized criminalization of those communities that are most affected by poverty and racial discrimination. Professor Davis’ teaching career has taken her to San Francisco State University, Mills College, and UC Berkeley. She also has taught at UCLA, Vassar, Syracuse University the Claremont Colleges, and Stanford University. Most recently she spent fifteen years at the University of California Santa Cruz where she is now Distinguished Professor Emerita of History of Consciousness—an interdisciplinary PhD program—and of Feminist Studies.
MLK Day 2022
Dr. Cornel West
Cornel West is a prominent and provocative democratic intellectual. He is the Dietrich Bonhoeffer Chair at Union Theological Seminary and holds the title of Professor Emeritus at Princeton University. He has also taught at Union Theological Seminary, Yale, Harvard, and the University of Paris. Cornel West graduated Magna Cum Laude from Harvard in three years and obtained his M.A. and Ph.D. in Philosophy at Princeton. He has written 20 books and has edited 13. Dr. West is a frequent guest on the Bill Maher Show, CNN, C-Span and Democracy Now. He made his film debut in the Matrix – and was the commentator (with Ken Wilbur) on the official trilogy released in 2004. He also has appeared in over 25 documentaries and films including Examined Life, Call & Response, Sidewalk and Stand. He has produced three spoken word albums including Never Forget, collaborating with Prince, Jill Scott, Andre 3000, Talib Kweli, KRS-One and the late Gerald Levert. His spoken word interludes are featured on productions by Terence Blanchard, The Cornel West Theory, Raheem DeVaughn, and Bootsy Collins.
MLK Day 2021
Founder and CEO of Phenomenal and New York Times bestselling author.
Meena Harris is one of the most powerful and dynamic young leaders in America. As the founder of the groundbreaking Phenomenal brand, she is a respected entrepreneur and is recognized as an influential voice for women's equality. Meena also is an attorney with extensive experience in consumer protection, data privacy, and cybersecurity. On June 2, 2020, Meena published her first book, a New York Times bestselling children's book entitled Kamala and Maya's Big Idea. Meena has been featured in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Harper's Bazaar, AdWeek, and more. She is a graduate of Stanford University and Harvard Law School, and currently resides in San Francisco with her partner and two daughters.
MLK Day 2020
Dr. Steve Perry
Dr. Steve Perry, known social worker, educator, author, TV host, and public speaker is a powerhouse of an advocate for educational equality and equity for children and their families in our country. For the youth in his community, Dr. Perry has opened four different charter schools, continuing his fight to create equal opportunities for all children in the country, despite their current circumstances. Perry’s work has been recognized by MSNBC, Fox, CNN, Al Jazeera, TV One, BET and NBC as well as on the Oprah Winfrey network in multiple shows.
MLK Day 2019
Symone D. Sanders
At the young age of 25, Symone became the youngest press secretary for a presidential candidate. In addition to her work with 2016 presidential candidate, Bernie Sanders, Ms. Sanders has continued her social justice work by being an advocate for women, young people and juvenile justice issues. Formerly, Symone has worked as CNN political commentator, a former chair of the Coalition of Juvenile Justice Emerging Leaders Committee and was a former member of the Federal Advisory Committee on Juvenile Justice. With her passion in juvenile justice, she ensures that her work always aligns with providing a voice for young people in important political conversations. Currently Symone works as a senior advisor for Joe Biden’s 2020 presidential campaign as well as serving as the principal of the 360 Group LLC, where she introduces solutions in social and political issues.
MLK Day 2018
Author, and Journalist, Roland Martin is the host and editor of the #RonaldMartinUnfiltered, an online show that notably focuses on the “black perspective” of current news, politics and issues. His previous work includes being an editor, publisher and owner of multiple historically black owned newspapers, magazines, and audio and video podcasts. These works include the Dallas-Fort Worth Heritage christian heritage newspaper, Savoy Magazine, the Chicago Defender and more. Martin has gone on to publish three books, Listening to the Spirit Within: 50 Perspectives on Faith; Speak, Brother! A Black Man’s View of America; and The First: President Barack Obama’s Road to the White House as originally reported by Roland S. Martin, and has contributed to several other authors’ publications. http://rolandsmartin.com/about-roland-s-martin/
MLK Day 2017
Dr. Randal Pinkett
Entrepreneur, public speaker, author and community servant Dr. Randal Pinkett, started his career from the comfort of his own college residence hall by selling CDs and cassette tapes to peers, and used the proceeds to support local high schools. After obtaining five different degrees from various colleges and universities, Pinkett went on to working for business firms and consulting companies before finding his own niche. Dr. Pinkett is a well known self made man that co-founded, chairs and is the CEO of the multimillion dollar company, BCT Partners. BCT Partners strives for equity in housing, jobs, education, health and more for a diverse population of individuals working for major companies around the country. Pinkett is a published author and co-author and continues to work in his community, as being apart of the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Incorporated and the National Society of Black Engineers. http://www.randalpinkett.com/
MLK Day 2016
Sheyann Webb, the “Smallest Freedom Fighter”, was just nine years old when she participated in the first attempt to march to Selma from Montgomery in 1965. Young social justice warrior Sheyann began her activism sneaking out and sneaking out to attend civil rights demonstrations and meetings in the Selma, Alabama community. Growing up, Webb attended segregated all-black schools, until she was one of the few first African American children that integrated into an all-white school. At this all-white school, Webb was subjected to unwarranted physical and verbal harassments and discrimination. Webb’s fire to fight for civil rights was continuously inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., as she was able to meet him in person after attending meetings in the community. March 7th, 1965, several African American protestors were violently assaulted and beaten on their march to Montgomery, we know this day today as, Bloody Sunday. The violent acts in response to the March, did not turn Webb away, as she continued to fight for equality for African-Americans in the U.S. Webb has gone on to receive a Bachelor and Master Degree and has co-authored the well-recognized book Selma, which has now been adapted into a movie.
MLK Day 2015
Now attorney, political commentator, and politician Bakari Sellers, was brought into the spotlight at the young age of 22, when he was recognized as the youngest African American elected official in the U.S. Sellers was a member of the South Carolina House of Representatives from the 90th district from 2006-2014. Sellers also worked for the Democratic Leadership Council, Obama for America and is a member of the South Carolina Legislative Black Caucus. Today, Sellers works as an attorney for the Strom Law Firm, L.L.C, in Columbia, South Carolina.
MLK Day 2014
Author, Journalist, Communications Specialist, Jeff Johnson is largely known for his appearance on the TV show Rap City on the BET network. On this show, Johnson spoke upon important issues for African American individuals such as violence and voting. Johnson’s work now includes public speaking at colleges, universities and churches, and reporting and interviewing influential people such as Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton. Johnson previously has worked as a senior advisor for media and outreach for People for the American Way. Johnson has gone on to publish commentaries around politics and social issues on platforms such as CNN.com, The Root.com and BlackPoliticsontheWeb.com.
MLK Day 2013
Diane Nash, Civil Rights and Peace Activist, is highly recognized for her fight for voting rights, the desegregation of lunch counters and interstate travel during the freedom rides. Nash is also known as a cofounder for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. Today Nash still advocates for fair housing for all and was the winner of the Southern Christian Leadership Conferences’ Rosa Parks Award. https://www.gvsu.edu/mlk/archive-past-speakers-10.htm